calf hutches vs calf igloos
Calves are your future dairy cows! Therefore, a good start is essential in order for them to achieve an optimal growth a a dairy cow. Studies have shown that a calf who has been given special attention in the first weeks will produce more than calves who did not achieve an optimal growth. An important part in this calf rearing is the type and management of calf housing. In order to prevent the spread of diseases, a calf should be kept individually in the first week of its life. When making the decision to buy a calf housing system one can choose between a calf hutch or calf igloo. To make the choice easier for you, we have listed all the pros and cons.
In order to make a good comparison we have evaluated the housing systems on the following points: animal welfare, climate and work convenience.
Housing and animal welfare
In order to guarantee a good animal welfare, the government has formulated several regulations. Part of these regulations are the requirements with respect to lying surface. The Animal Welfare Council has created ‘5 Freedoms’ that a calf should have acces to. The first 7 weeks a calf is allowed to stay in an individual hutch to reduce the risk of infections. After this period you can house them in group hutches. Depending on their weight a calf needs to have at least 1,5 to 3 square meters of surface available.
Both, the calf hutch as the calf igloo, comply to the regulations formulated by the government. The calf igloo is slightly bigger than a regular calf hutch. However calf hutches can be purchased in standard as well as XL version. Therefore, a difference in size is not significant. Furthermore, the larger calf hutches contain a partitioning wall which you can remove in order to create a group hutch. Calves that are held in group housing systems show a significant better growth and is recommended. The major difference between a hutch and igloo can be found in the bed. In general, calves in igloos sleep on the ground whereas calves in hutches sleep 20 cm above the ground. The advantage is that the bedding remains dry and therefore calves won’t get cold. Besides, a dry straw bedding causes less ammonia emissions and thus less lung diseases.
comfort and work convenience
It is clear that in the end the dairy farmer needs to work with its calf housing systems and therefore work convenience is a factor that one should not forget. This includes the ease of cleaning and mobility of the housing systems.
When it comes to the complexity of the systems, we can conclude that both houses are really easy to install. Nowadays calf igloos are also equipped with wheels, just like calf hutches. Furthermore, both systems are made of materials that are really easy to clean so bacteria have chance of attaching. The only significant difference we can find is in terms of work convenience. Since calf igloos are often not high, a farmer often has to bend over in order to enter the igloo. In the case of calf hutches, one can easily enter the hutch without disturbing the calf and without bending over.
In the first weeks of a calf’s week danger in form of diseases is just around the corner. A respiratory problem is one of the most common problems. The main reason for these issues is that calves are not protected from draft. As a rule of thumb the air speed should not exceed the 0,2 m/s. Draft causes calf mortality as well as illnesses. A calf that has experienced illnesses in the first weeks will not grow as much as others. Since the udder is developed in this period it will have direct impact on the milk yield. Therefore, at all cost draft should be minimized and a comfortable climate should be created. This means a temperature between the 15 and 25 degrees Celsius for the youngest animals.
Both systems are mobile and therefore easy to position out of reach of draft. As a bonus Topcalf calf hutches can be equipped with livestock curtain to reduce the draft. Furthermore, the bigger hutches are standard equipped with isolated roof which means that in extreme days a difference of 10 degrees Celsius can be attained. Especially in extreme warm summer days it is important to create a good climate. A combination of high temperatures and humidity can cause heat stress. Heat stress is a index that is used to monitor whether a calf is experiencing stress and a lower food intake. At the moment research is in progress to study the temperature differences between hutches and igloos. It is believed that an igloo acts as an oven in summer times and therefore should be well positioned in order to maintain a good climate.
- Simple products that are easy to clean
- Completely according to national regulations
- In general, igloos are a bit cheaper than hutches
- Animal welfare: In igloos calves spend more time on the ground whereas in calf hutches the calves lie high above the ground
- Climate: Both systems are mobile and can therefore be moved to the most convenient position. Calf hutches can be equipped with isolated roof or with livestock curtain
- Work convenience: Calf igloo is a bit harder to work with as the dairy farmer cannot stand in the igloo. The calf hutch can be equipped with divisible fence which makes it easy to enter the hutch without disturbing the calf.
- Calf igloos require more straw as calves lie on the ground