For small landholders wanting to make a success of calf rearing and make a supplementary income from it, calf housing will be an important consideration. Providing suitable housing for calves at night and in bad weather for the first 4 weeks of their life can result in growth rates of up to 25% above those of non-housed calves.
Individual or group housing?
There are two basic approaches to housing calves. They can be housed individually in pens or small huts or together in small groups. Both approaches have their advantages as well as some disadvantages.
Individual housing has the advantage that it’s easier to provide calves with individual attention and potentially gives greater control over infectious diseases. Problems of calf testicle/pizzle and ear sucking are also avoided. However, tending to calves in individual housing does tend to require more labour input. In addition, individually housed calves can experience socialising problems and post-weaning growth checks once they are introduced to other calves.
For small landholders who are time poor and rearing calves part time, group housing can provide significant time savings. Group housing is effective so long as continual attention is paid to shed hygiene and the progress of each individual calf is monitored well.