Autumn can be a good time to do maintenance work around the farm in preparation for the upcoming busy calving season.
An important job to do now is to assess your available calf accommodation, and compare it with your peak calf space requirement.
Identify your peak calf numbers for spring 2020.
In a 100-cow herd, with an 80% six-week calving rate, and 25% of calves being kept as replacements, the peak calf space requirement increases from 55 to 81 calves, if surplus calves are sold at four rather than two weeks.
The requirement is for 72 calves, if sold at three weeks.
Calves need a minimum of 1.7 square metres floor space.
One bay in a calf shed, measuring 4.8m by 5m (or 24 square metres of floor space) will accommodate 14 calves.
Sale at two weeks will require four bays, while sale at three of four weeks will both require six bays.
Getting calves out to grass early can reduce labour, but it won’t reduce your peak calf numbers, and the requirement for adequate calf accommodation.
Solutions to overcome shortages in calf accommodation will depend on the scale of the accommodation deficit.
Remember that suitable calf accommodation must be draught-free; well ventilated; well-drained; and easily cleaned.
If you have a small space deficit, then calf hutches located on a silage slab could be a good option. However, where there is a large deficit, and existing accommodation does not meet the key principles of good calf accommodation, then planning a new calf shed or modifying existing sheds should be given serious consideration. For some, a mix between existing calf sheds, calf hutches and selling calves early, will provide an overall solution.