So much thought goes into designing and planning of a new facility on the farm. This is especially true when it comes to the calving/maternity buildings. This area is a vital aspect of a dairy and special considerations must be taken in to mind. This area has unique concerns for health and safety of both the animals that come in and out of it and the employees that work in this area. There is a high need for hygiene in this area, more so than other areas of the farm. Having a well designed maternity area, provides the best opportunity to give the best start to your new calves.
There are several factors that go into the design of the maternity area, from providing comfort to the dam, to accessibility of the location, to calf care and more. Let’s take a look at the details to consider when setting up your maternity area.
Delivering calves is stressful even during the best circumstances, so making sure to minimize that stress should be priority. A dam experiencing stress or a difficult delivery will impact the health and livelihood of the newborn calf. You should strive to have a quiet area of the farm for calving. This area should also have plenty of clean dry bedding that gives the dam enough cushion and traction during the delivery process. Provide adequate lighting and plenty of water in this area as well. You will want to have your employees, frequently monitor the cows when they are in this area for any signs of distress.
Cleanliness of the Area:
The maternity area is like the hospital ward and should be treated like one. While keeping it a sterile area, may not be feasible, it is of the upmost importance to keep it as clean as possible. Maintaining a clean area is necessary to keep the potential pathogens that a newborn calf is exposed to at a minimum. Remember, that calves are born without immunity and receive all of their antibodies through the colostrum they are fed. This is why it is important to keep as few cows in the area as possible. Making sure your space can accommodate your anticipated heavy calving seasons. Adequate air flow and ventilation is needed to prevent additional stress on the dam during calving, as well as the calf. You don’t want the newborn calves to be breathing in damp, stale air.
Accessibility of the Area:
The area should have large gates, to allow equipment to brought in or taken out of with ease. You should keep in mind your employees and the vets who will go in and out of this area. It needs to be easy enough for them to get in and help a cow that is in distress. If you have a grouped calving area, each cow requires a minimum of 150 square feet of room for calving. Having enough room for each dam, not only helps them to not get hurt during delivery but also helps to prevent your employees or the vets that may need to enter the pen to assist in a difficult delivery.
It is necessary to have your maternity protocols up-to-date from the pre-calving stages through the first hours/days of life. All of your employees that work in this area need to be well trained and aware of the protocols and expectations. There needs to be proper documentation of all the animals that come in and out of the area to ensure that each one has received the proper care. It is also important that these protocols include details on the colostrum management aspects, to ensure each calf being born is given that best start in life with the proper nutrition. The highest quality colostrum and sufficient quantity of colostrum you have available on your farm. Your protocols also need to include cleaning and sanitizing procedures for all tools and equipment. And remember to document EVERYTHING!!
Having a well thought out and well designed maternity area on your farm can greatly impact your future productivity.