Common Questions About Calf Hutches
Q. What is the purpose of a calf hutch?
A. Calf hutches are designed to help protect dairy calves from disease and the elements, and keep them safe, healthy and comfortable at each stage of their development. As the calf grows, it is moved to a larger hutch or pen that better meets its needs, until it eventually joins the milking herd. The objective is to help the calf grow into a healthy adult cow.
Q. How comfortable are calf hutches?
A. Calf hutches are designed to maximize ventilation, provide space for walking and lying down, and protect against all kinds of weather. Farmers are careful to keep them clean and stocked with fresh, comfortable bedding. Most hutches include a fenced area that allows the calf to walk around outside, see its neighbors, enjoy the sunshine, and get a visit from the farmer (or, more often, his or her children).
Q. What do calves eat?
A. When they are very young, calves are fed colostrum from a bottle. As they grow, they are fed milk or nutrient-rich milk replacers. Once the calves can digest solid food, they are given water and hay or grain. Dairy farmers work closely with veterinarians and animal nutritionists to ensure calves receive the proper nutrition at every stage of development.
Q. How long does the calf live in the hutch?
A. Most calves are transferred from hutches to group pens when they are weaned, around 8 weeks. Eventually, they will join other heifers (cows that have not given birth) in a pasture and/or barn until they are ready to join the adult milking herd.