Newborn calves will spend 80% of their day lying, so they should have access to a clean, dry, well-bedded creep area.

Having a separate area for calves to lie has multiple advantages. Firstly, straw will last much longer compared with when calves share a bed with cows.

Secondly, cows will shed disease pathogens in urine and dung. If calves lie in soiled areas, they are more prone to taking scours or cryptospirosis.

A dry bed also helps calves to regulate body temperature effectively, so they burn less energy to keep warm. That means more energy is available for growth.

Stocking density

Housing is likely to last for several weeks yet on the majority of suckler farms, as ground conditions remain poor, preventing opportunities for turning animals out to grass.

That will see sheds coming under pressure as stocking density increases until animals can slip out to grass.


Until then, keep creep pens well bedded. The rise in straw prices will see some farmers looking to skimp on straw. But that may be a false economy, as the risk of a scour outbreak increases.

Straw will be cheaper than dealing with a scour outbreak, especially should such diseases lead to the loss of a calf.

As a rule of thumb, if you kneel on bedding in the creep pen and your knees are damp, then apply more straw.

Woodchip can also be used as an alternative to straw and offers excellent thermal insulation. The big downside is incorporating the soiled chip back into the soil on a grassland unit.

Putting pallets on the floor before covering in straw will allow urine to drain off, keeping straw drier and reducing the frequency that bedding needs topping up.

Read more

IFA farmer protest at airport over ‘hypocrisy in policy’

UK sheep price increases 'never seen before'