What is a calf hutch and what are its uses
Calf housing is very important for every cattle raiser and dairy farm owner. Rearing new-born calves in large groups, especially poorly ventilated confinement can lead to a multitude of health conditions such as, such as pneumonia, scour, etc. The immune system of young calves are not fully developed yetand these health conditions can easily lead to a high fatality rate.
To reduce exposure to pathogens and to enable individual observation of each calf, the calf hutch is introduced. Calf hutch is an individual housing for a new born calf for first few weeks life. A hutch typically includes a fenced-in exercise area.
After 8 weeks rearing, calves are generally returned to the herd to start their social life.
Calf Hutch Manufacture Process – YYK Barn as example
A calf hutch may be made of wood, plastics or fiber glass, here we take the YYK Barn Tech LLDPE calf hutch rotational molding process as an example.
- Step1: Plastic resin preparation. Resing pellets are pulverized to form a powder, within the process, additives are added for further increase impact and tensile strength of the finished product
- Step2: Rotational molding under 400°F in heating station for 25-30 minutes after mold is clamped
- Step3: Cooling and removal of excess material and sharp edges on the calf hutch
- Step 4: Installation of ventilation caps and window cover
Calf hutch buying tips
Tip 1: A Calf hutch needs good ventilation design.
- Hutches keep calves warm in the winter and offer shade in the summer. However, without HAVC systems involved, they depend on their design for natural ventilation. Firstly, a roof vent channel is highly recommended. A roof vent willproduce chimney effect to eliminate stagnant air, which is more effective in colder weather due to the heat produced by calf (and sometimes it’s bedding). Secondly, proper side ventilation is required on opposite sides of a calf hutch to maintain air flow during hot weather. During cool or cold weather, the openings on sidewalls should be completely airtight to prevent draft from blowing through. Hence, an adjustable opening is way to go.
Tip 2: Calf hutches should be a comfortable space for the calves.
- Calves should not feel cramped inthe hutch, and an oversized hutch is not appropriate for frugal operation and snug housing. Based on following Holstein calf size table, a 7 – 8 feet long, and 4 feet wide hutch is deemed proper. The gate should be 46-47 inches high, slightly higher than withers height of the animal at 8-months at the weaning time. Below is growth chart of a holstein calf for reference.
Tip 3: Polymer Material is preferred.
- Some old school farmers use wood, even steel to build hutches, however, we do not recommend that kind of product. Wood is an organic material and vulnerable to buildups of pathogensand mold, especially under humid conditions. Steel hutches are unable to provide isolation or proper temperature control, and are highly not recommended.
- Another choice is fiberglass calf hutches, those hutches provide good UV protection and are solid, however, due to the complex manufacturing process, fiberglass hutches are more expensive and thus not suited for all farm owner.
- Polymer material becomes more and more popular, as this kind of hutch price is relatively lower, offers good isolation and is UV resistant as well. Plastic hutches are manufactured by roto-molding, which is highly automatic. Given the right design and strict molding process, these hutches provide superior quality.
- Most roto-molded hutches use LLDPE (linear low-density polyethylene) as raw material, some use PP (Polypropylene) as raw materials. Both materials are inexpensive and resistant to acids and elements. However, PP becomes brittle at temperatures below -20 degree Celsius, which may be problematic in cold areas.