Many dairy farms across the country have shifted into a lower gear the past few weeks.

Cows are beginning to be dried off and although some farmers look set to continue milking through the Christmas period, the workload on farms has been reduced to the routine tasks of feeding and milking.

Farmers deservedly take a rest over the Christmas period, but the quiet period is also an ideal time to begin preparation for the organised chaos that is spring calving.

Ideally, calf sheds and calving pens will have been cleaned out after use in late spring or early summer.

Where they haven’t been, this task should be completed immediately, followed up by a thorough power washing and disinfection of the accommodation.

Allowing the pens to dry out before reusing them and exposing them to sunlight by opening doors will aid in killing any harmful bacteria present.


Other calving necessities should get a once-over to ensure they are in working order.

Barriers and gates should be freely swinging and latching securely. Welding repairs should be carried out while the area is free of any straw bedding or livestock.

Water troughs should be cleaned out and checked to ensure no leaks are present. The location of the water trough should also be scrutinised. Could it be moved to a dry stand-off area?

It might also be a good time to assess and rejig internal fit outs of accommodation.


While individual penning for calves can work well for the first few days, over a sustained period it becomes labour intensive.

Calves should transition to group pens after day four or five to help reduce labour as well as to let them socially interact with other calves.

Farmers should also have extra calf accommodation available if needed in an emergency. Plastic hutches located on silage slabs (to collect any effluent) or in sheltered paddocks will help ease accommodation needs should pressure come on.