Winter is rolling right along, and we’ve almost made it through the generally cold and unforgiving month of January.
Truth? January hasn’t been that bad this year. We had a few cold snaps of solidly below zero, but this last week brought warmer air again and some melting. We’ve got enough snow without being buried, and I hope all you East-coasters are getting back to normal after your ‘Snowzilla’ storm last weekend.
While cattle do well outdoors in winter as long as they have wind-breaks or shelter plus plenty of feed, water and bedding, raising calves outside during cold and snow still proves a challenge. The calves need to use more energy to stay warm, and it simply takes more time and labor to care for them in winter weather. Pushing and shoveling snow, dumping and refilling freezing water pails, and doing the normal chores of feeding and bedding while wearing heavy layers of clothes is a big job.
The bottom line is overall our baby calves stay healthy and well over winter, but the conditions are still challenging. Especially for us workers.
For many years we have talked about ways to move more of our calf raising indoors, and this fall we took step one. We purchased a sixty-stall calf barn and got the foundation piers and water lines all set up during the late fall. The building arrived in early December and then the electric, gas, and plumbing were hooked up. We finally started moving new calves in at the end of December.
The barn has two separate rooms made for thirty calves each with a utility room in the middle. There are also fans, ventilation, and heaters all hooked up in one system to continually bring in fresh air and keep the temperature consistent. Obviously less air needs to be circulating during the cold weather, but we still need some.
The barn is kept around 62 degrees, and our new babies move right in to warm up. The calves will stay in the barn for 2-4 weeks (depending on how many new babies are upcoming), and then they move to hutches for another month or so until weaning.
Each calf room is able to be washed with a pressure washer, so that allows us to clean things well and disinfect the barn between groups. This is extra important because of the warmer temperature inside.
It’s wonderful to see the calves start nibbling on their grain earlier and having continuous access to water even when the temperatures are below zero.
The barn is set up well for warmer weather with ventilation, so I hope and expect we will be equally happy with starting calves indoors no matter what season it is.
We’ve had calves in the barn for over one month, so I knew it was time I update the blog with the news. One more feature I love is easier access to the calves. The stalls are much quicker for me and my pregnant belly to get into than climbing into hutches!