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Old 12/12/05, 02:07 PM
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Raising Calves in Hutches

Hi am new to Homesteading Today, but I hope someone can help me. I am currentely trying to co-run a dairy farm in Wisconsin with my father. He is really stuck in the old way of doing things but this year we are going to start raising calves outside in Hutches instead of in the dairy barn with the cows. I must tell a little about our operation so I can get the full help I need. We have two calving pens in the dairy barn. So when a cow freshens, they will be in a pen, which is where the calf usually stays until the next one is born. What I am wondering is how long after a calf is born, do you suggest to put them out in the calf hutch? Please remember I'm in Wisconsin and that most of our calves will be born when it is cold out from Dec to Mar. For example we had our first calf of the year last week, and when she was born it was only about 10 degrees outside without wind chill. If someone can please give me their advice on when to put them out please let me know. I almost forgot to mention we have calf blanket that we can put on them. Again Thanks for any help you can give.
Wisconsin Family Dairy

Last edited by Wis.FamilyDairy; 12/12/05 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 12/12/05, 09:58 PM
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Location: WI
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I would recommend in the hutch after 24 hrs and after they get their colostrum. I too live in WI, and as long as they are out of the wind, they will be ok.

In the barn they will get sick to much. WAY to moisture in there.

Keep them out of the wind, and they will be fine
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Old 12/13/05, 09:38 AM
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Thanks, for the reply, Should we keep them just in the hutch or could we let them in the pen. Currently we plan on locking them in the hutch for a few days an then turning them out in the pen. Also what do you suggest for the blanket. My father really believes the calf needs it on for a while. I was thinking only a couple of days until it use to being outside and then take it off. As for the pen I was thinking only a couple of days locked in the hutch and then let it out. My thinking we then they will learn were it is warm and will go back inside when they get cold. Thanks again for your time.
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Old 12/13/05, 10:33 AM
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Leave them in the hutch until they are weaned.

You want them to be alone until they are weaned so that:

If one gets ill, not all get ill.

They learn not to suckel on each other.

I have a few blankets, but have never used them.

In the summer, I have hutches facing north, and in the winter, facing south.

My hutches are make of three 4x8 plywood sheets. One sheet is cut in half to make two 4x4 sheets. The 4x8s are the left and right walls. the 4x4s are the back wall and roof covering 1/2 of the walls. This way they can be under cover or in the open.
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Old 12/13/05, 12:54 PM
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I reccomend calf hutches and here is why. Disease, vitamins etc. The sun is perfect for calves, being stuck in the barn could help to induce some sort of pheumonia, and there are other things, such as ring worm. Where I bought 4 of my Jerseys from, she had calf hutches. They were facing the west, towards the wind. She doesn't loose any calves, and are as healthy as the dickens. I know when my heifers start calving, they will be going outside of the barn after a few days into calf hutches, and stay there for a couple months before going to a different spot with a group.

"Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death" Patrick Henry, March 23rd, 1775
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Old 12/16/05, 10:56 AM
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My hubby and I have the northern most farm in Wisconsin so we know about those cold Wi nights. Hutches work great in the winter. They stay much more healthy. As long as they are out of the wind and have lots of bedding they do great. I've never felt a need to use calf blankets. You may want to feed a little extra when there is a bad cold snap (15-20 below). As far as when to put them out. I usually do it as soon as they are dry. There's no point in waiting any longer. It just gives the calf more of an opportunity to get sick. I'll keep that calf in a hutch until it is ready to be weaned. As soon as it's weaned they are moved into a large group pen. Weaned calves in a small pen doesn't work. It's hard to feed them enough and they eat alot so there's too much manure to keep the pen clean.
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Old 12/16/05, 01:12 PM
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calves in hutches

I have been raising holstien calves for several years now. I use Polydome hutches. It is amazing to go out when it is twenty degrees out and look at the thermometer in the hutch and see that it is twenty degrees warmer in the hutch. I pick up calves the day they are born, and always get a gallon of colostrum from the dairyman, even if he says the calf has already had some. I always Use a stomach tube to force feed a half gallon of colostrum into the calf as soon as I get it to the farm, and again the next day. After that they get Land of Lakes calf starter. I usually will use a whole sack per calf, more or less. I the put the calf into a freshly cleaned hutch with clean deep bedding. I leave the calves in hutches until they are fully weaned and eating at least a pound of calf ration a day. I then take them from the hutch, castrate, disbud, vaccinate, and put them in the barn in a group pen that holds five with room to spare. I offer good fine grass hay and plenty of grain and clean water. I alow the bedding to build to generate extra warmth. I put the out to pasture when they are four hundred pounds and continue giving them grain until they get to six hundred pounds. I have raised about four hundred calves this way, and have only lost eight, usually to coxidiosous in the first week, which I asume they pick up at the dairy before I get them. I find this a very good mortality rate. I find treating for coxi is not very cost effective in young calves, but maybe it makes sense with high quality dairy heifers. Most of the bull calves I treated with success didn't finish out as well.
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Old 12/20/05, 10:19 AM
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Location: Ontario
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I have a few calves in plywood calf hutches. I lost one but he was sickly when given to us. We were supposed to raise veal calves but the grain is to expensive in Northern Ontario(no corn in our area). We started raising short horns from a local dairy. Much better, and we can sell them as stockers.
Is there a market for Holstien steers besides veal? My nieghbour is a dairy farmer.
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Old 12/20/05, 03:38 PM
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We try to raise all of our calves in hutches. We had plywood hutches as others have mentioned, in fact we would put two close together and put a sheet of plywood across them to make a third hutch. We used hog panels to separate them. Never had a real problem even though the calves had contact with each other. MOst of these have now deterioted away and I am using the old porta huts, round roofed tin hog shelter, and tether with a chain. They are around 4'X8', with a open flap across the back. In the winter I put a half sheet of plywood or scrap to close it up and lock in a new calf when it gets real nasty. When we push snow I dump it over the huts and pile it across the backs for more insulation. These must be either staked or weighted down. I also use an old sweatshirt for calf coats. Just cut of 3'4 the sleeves and make slits for the back legs, then tape up the midsection if too big. Jerseys seem to fit into adult mediums or kid x large, Bigger calves can go right into adult larges. I always try to buy the old ugly ones that are cheap at garage sales. The key in the winter is more milk,more bedding, extra feed, warm water helps too..
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