Individual pen: ‘incubator’ for calves
Effectively, newborn calves require the same sort of care as a baby. They should be accommodated in the cleanest and safest environment possible. As a livestock farmer, this gives you the greatest control over the calf’s drinking and health, and as a result general hygiene. The individual pen in which the unfed calf is placed following birth should not only be clean but also thoroughly disinfected. The process starts with having sufficient individual pens available at the farm, also during periods in which many cows are calving. The rule of thumb for the correct number of individual pens is 15% of the total number of dairy cows. “If you have too few individual pens, the infection load becomes too high, because after transferring one calf, the next has to be placed in the same pen, too quickly,’ suggested Lieke Janssen, young cattle specialist at Agrifirm. ‘Sooner or later it will mean problems, expense and annoyance. And that will cost you more than buying a few additional pens.’ If you have plenty of individual pens, after cleaning and disinfection, you can leave them standing empty for a few days, preferably in the sun. The best possible form of disinfection.