Are your calves getting enough ventilation?

Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

Review your ventilation now so you can avoid problems down the road

With fall upon us and winter on its way, it’s a good idea to review your ventilation now so you can avoid problems down the road. Having good and adequate ventilation for your calves is crucial for overall health and the prevention of respiratory disease.

A component of ventilation that is sometimes overlooked is the stocking density of your calf pens. Just like cows, calves of all ages have space requirements that need to be met in order to keep them comfortable and healthy. Simply measure your pens and calculate total square footage, then divide by the number of animals in the pen. Do your numbers match up with the following suggestions?

For baby calves aged 0-2 months, they need a minimum of 30 square feet per animal. For weaned calves aged 2-4 months, they also need about 30 square feet. Heifers aged 4-8 months require 40 square feet of space per head, and heifers aged 8-12 months require 50 square feet. Those square footage measurements are for a bedded pen or pack area, and do not include feeding area. For weaned calves, feeding area requirements are 18 inches with slant bar dividers. For 4-8 month old heifers it’s 15 inches per animal and for 8-12 month old heifers it is 17 inches per animal.

Another important component of ventilation and the one we probably think of most often is ventilating rates. Ventilating rates vary based on the age of the animal and the current weather conditions. The following rates are given in CFMs, which is Cubic Feet per Minute and measures the velocity of airflow. For baby calves aged 0-2 months, the CFM requirements are 15 in cold weather, 30 in mild weather, 65 in warm weather, and 100 in hot weather. Note that these requirements are per calf, so if you have 15 calves in your barn at this age during cold weather, they would require 225 CFM all together. For calves and heifers aged 2-12 months, CFM requirements are 20 in cold weather, 40 in mild weather, 90 in warm weather, and 130 in hot weather. So if you have 15 older calves in hot weather, their CFM requirement is 1,950 CFM.

Calf ventilation plays an important role in keeping your calves healthy, and knowing what your calves’ space and ventilation requirements are is the first step in making sure they are properly ventilated.

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