5 January 1996

Calf hutches cope in Canadian cold

CALVES are content and healthy in hutches even in the severest Canadian weather, which can range from 35C (95F) in summer to -25C (-13F) in winter.

That is the message of Roger Schantz, manager of the University of Guelphs Elora dairy research station. He says calf mortality in hutches is low – about 1%.

Dr Schantz reckons it is hard to keep mortality as low as that in barns which, he says, are designed for the comfort of the stockman, not the health of the calf.

"Calves stand the Ontario weather well. In cold weather they just need feeding a little extra milk for energy."

The health of calves reared in hutches is more likely to be affected in hot summers, he says. Hutches need to be in the shade to avoid the risk of heat stress and illness.

Milk producer Howard Cornwell, Corwick Farms, Norwich, Ontario, has reared over 90 calves a year in hutches for 15 years and agrees it is better for them. He previously used a barn for the job and since the change incidence of pneumonia and scours has fallen.

"Calves are born with no immunity to disease," says Mr Cornwell. "Outside in the hutches they can build up immunity without risks of bugs from others sharing the same environment even with these extremes."

Despite temperatures of -25C, calves at Elora remained healthy.