A calf hutch is a rather small hut intended to house one calf. These became popular in the 1980's, and are still a very common way to house calves across the country. Most hutches are made of molded plastic these days. Ours have four drop-down shutters which are closed in the cold months, and opened late spring through early fall for ventilation. The hutch doorway faces south, and is usually wide open, with the winter sun from the south shining its warmth into the hutch. We bed our hutches with deep straw in the winter, and with sand from April to October; bedding is critical to calf comfort and growth.
- Disease control is one reason...if a calf suffers a bout of diarrhea, we don't want her to "share" the infectious organisms with another calf.
- Adequate nutrition is another reason...housed alone, we can easily keep track of how much a calf is drinking (milk) and eating (grain). We deliver an assigned amount of milk and grain to each calf twice daily, and she doesn't have to compete with any other calves to get her share.
By the way, young bull calves are started in hutches right along with the heifer (female) calves. They are castrated at 2-3 months of age, and raised with the heifers until they are about a year old. Then, the Young calves in winter hutches wear jackets for warmth. "road divides", and heifers are sorted to a breeding pen, steers
(the castrated males) to a paddock or free stall barn, depending
on the season. They have very few worries..just eat..rest..frolic.
The calf is nursing a 2 quart bottle of milk. We deliver milk to the hutches twice a day. The black rubber in front of the calf's nose is the base of the nipple, where it attaches over the mouth of the bottle. The nipple itself is inside the calf's mouth, and she is sucking it until she gets every last drop of milk in that bottle! Calves get excited when they see us arrive with their milk. There's lots of young heifer moooing going on until all have their milk in place.
Calves on our farm drink a gallon of whole milk each day until weaned. Weaning takes place at 6-8 weeks of age. Meanwhile, each calf takes an early interest in a calf starter grain, and receives more and more of it each week. By the time the calf is weaned, she is eating an adequate of amount of starter to maintain herself once we stop bringing milk to her. Her digestive track has matured since birth. At birth, the calf wasn't able to digest grains, but at weaning, and for the rest of her life, she will digest grains and forages, using the nutrients from them for milk production, pregnancy, and maintenance.
How much milk do you drink?? If you're a teenager, it's likely you are drinking 3-4 cups of 1% or 2% milk; younger children may still be drinking "whole" (3.5%) milk. The percent stated measures how much butterfat (cream) is in the milk. Milk is a super source of protein, energy and other nutrients, whether you are a teenager, a child, or a young calf !
On our farm, calves drink whole pasteurized milk from our cows...it's just over 5% butterfat...lots of energy for growth and for staying warm in the winter cold weather.
I'll be talking to you again soon. Stay healthy...drink your milk! SunRay Sallie