Choose the Best Bedding for Your Calves Year-round

Jan 15, 2020

Just like you put on multiple layers of clothing before you head outside in the winter, your calves also need a good way to “bundle up” when it gets cold. What’s more, their “winter outfits” need to be dry and clean to prevent respiratory disease. Here are some quick tips to follow when bedding hutches and pens this winter:
  • Start with a clean, disinfected hutch. Pressure wash, disinfect and let the hutch dry between calves.
  • Place hutches on a clean, dry area – preferably with a cement or gravel base.
  • Distribute a light layer of hydrated lime on the hutch base to disinfect and dry out the area.
  • Start with a 3- to 4-inch layer of shavings or sawdust to help absorb moisture.
  • Twelve inches of long straw is necessary for calves to nest in order to maintain body temperature during cold weather. (Two-thirds of the calf’s legs should “disappear” in the bedding when she lies down.)
  • When determining if bedding is dry, use the “knee test.”  Kneel in the bedding for 30 seconds. Your knee should be dry when you stand up. If not, the bedding is too wet.
  • Use clean bedding that is free of dust and mold. 
With wind chills and snow storms, it’s hard to think about summer right now, but proper bedding should remain a priority on your calf operation the whole year through. The key difference between bedding in the summer versus the winter is that you’ll want to avoid using deep, long straw as it may cause heat stress during summer’s long, hot days. Here are options for summer bedding:
  • Use 6 inches or more of sand
  • Use 6 inches or more of sawdust or shavings
  • Use just 8 inches of fresh straw
All of the other rules still apply in the summer months. Remember, proper bedding is one of the most important ways to keep your calves performing at an optimal level no matter the season.
----- Starting Strong - Calf Care

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