First of all, consider how the shed is going to be cleaned out.
Make sure the doors and passageways are big enough to accommodate a tractor, 50hp or 60hp bigger than the existing tractor.
Thirty years ago, the biggest tractors on livestock farms were 80hp, now 120hp is standard. Sliding doors are much safer than swinging doors.
Do ensure correct ventilation. The requirement for a 100kg calf is to have an outlet space in the ridge of 0.04m2 per calf.
So, if the shed accommodates 50 calves and is 14.4m long (three standard spans) the outlet ridge should be 13.8cm wide.
Yorkshire boarding for the sides of sheds is the gold standard
The inlets should be two to four times the size of the outlet and divided along both side walls.
A steep roof pitch of 22° will help with ventilation. Yorkshire boarding for the sides of sheds is the gold standard.
Do think about services before building. These include water installation for drinking troughs (at the front of pens to prevent leaks and spillages wetting the bedding) and drainage.
Water pipes should be buried underground where possible to prevent freezing.
The slope in floors under pens should be one in 20, while the slope in drainage channels should be one in 60.
If computerised calf feeders are to be installed in the future, put in underground ducting for hoses and cables to the feed stations/mixing station. Good quality LED lighting is important.
Don’t build a calf shed too high or too wide.
The risk is that these sheds will be built too high and too wide and as a result, will be difficult to ventilate and can be very cold for young calves
Many farmers are attracted to the idea of a multipurpose calf shed that will store straw, machinery and fertiliser during the late summer and then act as a calf shed in spring.
The risk is that these sheds will be built too high and too wide and as a result, will be difficult to ventilate and can be very cold for young calves.
A simple lean-two style shed, with the open side facing away from the prevailing wind will work best as a multi-purpose shed as opposed to a large A frame shed.
Don’t overcomplicate the penning. If rearing large numbers of calves, the less penning in the calf sheds the better, as this slows down the feeding process.
Calves will need to be penned according to age and ideally there shouldn’t be more than 10 or 14 days of age difference within the pen. Some farmers can successfully feed 40 to 50 calves of the same age in one pen using a trailed calf feeder.
Avoid using individual pens, as they take up too much time
Some of the computerised calf feeders can feed over 30 calves per feed station and some people put more than one feed station per pen facilitating very large numbers of calves per pen.
Animal husbandry skills need to be sharp when numbers per pen increase, as it can be harder to spot a calf off form.
Avoid using individual pens, as they take up too much time. Use small group pens with four to five calves of the exact same age instead and train using a group feeder.
Don’t site the calf shed in the wrong place.
This is a common problem whereby the new calf shed is built in a location that means it can’t be expanded in the future, or other sheds or facilities close to it can’t be expanded in the future.
Typically, the calf shed is built close to the calving shed and the milking parlour. Try and plan the development so that it is linear and not obstructing future development.
Underground pipes can be used to pump milk from the parlour to the calf house while calves can be moved in a buggy or trolley.