Assessment tool to evaluate the calf environment

When problem-solving dairy calf health and performance problems or bottlenecks, in addition to assessing or evaluating overall calving management, colostrum management, nutrition and feeding systems, and disease detection and treatment protocols, the calf-management advisor can help evaluate the calf environment. There are several areas to assess, based on the literature review:

  • Housing systems and space requirements
  • Ventilation or air quality around the calf
  • Housing hygiene and sanitation
  • Calf comfort and welfare (associated with housing)

It is very important to evaluate housing needs for winter and summer months. Providing for sufficient airflow without draft is essential in winter, but maximizing heat and humidity removal from calf environments in summer requires a different set of recommendations and farm management protocols. The housing areas need to be evaluated for both cold and hot weather!

The following list is a guideline for the kinds of items an environment assessor might want to have on hand:

  1. Checklist/Form and Guidelines + Clipboard
  2. Tape measure or laser measuring device
  3. Graph paper
  4. Anemometer (new models will also measure temperature and humidity)
  5. Calculator
  6. CO2 sampler and sticks
  7. Smoke sticks
  8. Temperature/humidity data loggers (2)
  9. Sterile culture swabs and blood agar plates
  10. Sterile whirlpaks for bedding samples
  11. Ruler to measure bedding depth or evaluate nesting score

Click here to download an eight-page assessment tool to evaluate the calf environment.