Ventilation is “critical but difficult to get right” in calf-rearing systems, according to renowned veterinary consultant, Tommy Heffernan.
During his recent ‘Being Brilliant at the Basics Winter Calf Health webinar 2023, ‘Tommy the Vet’, comprehensively discussed the six main factors, which are the cornerstones of successful calf rearing, which include colostrum, feeding, hygiene, fresh air, calf comfort and space.
He said that often ventilation (fresh air/air movement) can be seen as an after-thought, but it is paramount for future potential lifetime performance.
“Fresh air is another one of nature’s gifts. It contains ozone, is active, and has the ability to kill pathogens,” he explained in the webinar on his YouTube channel.
“The big challenge is that fresh air and warm calves do not always go together, and we know about the challenge of draughts.”
“If we have cold air blowing into a shed at high speed, it can bring down the critical temperature of calves, and that can depress immunity.”
“This is probably one of the big challenges around calf shed in our seasonal spring-calving system that can be hard to get right.”
Calf shed ventilation
He said it is a “very farm-by-farm perspective”, but overall, adequate ventilation can make a “huge” difference to calves.
He suggests that the best way to assess fresh air is to use smoke bombs, but he said that ammonia odours in sheds indicate poor air quality.
His main message in the video was the importance of practising the improvement of air quality and movement at calf level.
The vet commented: “We know that calf housing has been a big bottleneck in Irish systems. We have gone up in numbers post-quota, and some farms invested in cow and accommodation.”
“I was at calf events in recent week, and there are lots of conversations around new calf houses being built on-farm with the recognition that more people are going to be rearing calves.”
“There may not be a market pre-weaning but certainly will be post-weaning, so people are looking at this,” he concluded.
In a previous article, That’s Farming, summarised the veterinary consultant’s advice on colostrum and feeding, which you can read via this link.
In the most recent article, we featured an article on calf hygiene, which you can read by following this link.