LAST February saw Ballinamallard dairy farmer Ian Irwin purchase 15 single Agri Plastics’ calf hutches from Teemore Engineering. He is currently milking 180 cows the year round with his herd averaging 9,600L at 4.15% butterfat and 3.45% protein.
“The plan is to improve the genetic merit of the herd and, over time, sell off surplus heifers at point of calving,” said Ian.
“One of the main problems that we have faced over recent years has been that of keeping calves healthy.
“With me calving the year round, pathogen numbers had been building-up in the old calf rearing shed with the result that issues such as Crypto, scours of all types and respiratory problems had been building up.”
He continued: “Twelve months ago, I decided to invest in the calf hutches. An initial 15 were purchased and I am happy to confirm that they have helped me to dramatically improve the growth rates and overall health standards achieved by the calves.
“The hutches have been specifically located on hard standing in an area adjacent to the main yard. The calves have plenty of fresh air but are not subject to drafts. They are bedded on straw, which can be changed when required. In addition, the hutches can be thoroughly washed down.”
Ian went on to point out that he does not mind heading for the ‘great outdoors’ when it comes to feeding the calves.
“When we had the calves indoors, I was spending a large part of my day treating sick animals. In fact, it had gotten to the stage where I was dreading going into the calf shed, in the knowledge that I would be greeted by at least one sick animal on most occasions.
“Now it’s an absolute treat to work with the calves. My plan is to invest in an additional 15 hutches over the coming months.”
Teemore’s Ray Foy was a recent visitor to the Irwin farm. He said: “What makes these hutches different is the quality of the plastic used in the manufacturing process. As a consequence, they have a 50 per cent better impact strength, a longer life and being totally opaque, ensure high ultra violet protection at all times. In fact, the hutches come with a 10-year guarantee.”
In essence, the Agri-Plastics hutches guarantee the perfect environment in which to rear young calves.
Ray Foy again: “Many dairy farmers now calve their cows the year-round. This approach has led to a build-up in disease pressures within traditional calf sheds. In addition, problems such as Crypto cannot be adequately dealt with in many calf sheds because of the spores’ ability to survive the most intensive cleaning procedures. They become deeply imbedded in all wooden and related structures, thereby representing an ongoing health challenge to young calves.
“Hutches, on the other hand can be thoroughly washed while all bedding can be easily removed and replaced, thereby creating a continuing, healthy environment for growing calves.”