Innovative Housing Options

Published on Thu, 07/21/2022 - 11:30am

Innovative Housing Options.

 By Maura Keller.

 Proper cow and calf housing can have a profound effect on the health and well-being of livestock. From loafing sheds to calf hutches and pens, today’s housing options for cows and calves are as vast as the producers themselves.

“There are many different options for housing facilities and shelter,” says Curtis Kauffman, owner at Kauffman Structures. “Our shelters and loafing sheds are tailored more to fit the needs of smaller producers who need shelter for several animals at a time.”

Specifically, Kauffman Structures manufactures loafing sheds, which are wood framed buildings constructed with metal sides, roof, and trim. As Kauffman explains, these shelters will take the abuse that is bound to happen when housing livestock, without losing any functionality.  

“A key benefit of going with a prebuilt shelter is that it can be delivered to nearly any site on the farm, allowing it to be at the most needed location,” Kauffman says. The shelters are attached to heavy duty 6x6 skids and can be easily dragged from one location to another, if needed.

The team at Kauffman Structures also understands that producers with livestock recognize the need to provide a safe place for animals to rest and be protected from harsh weather year-round.  

So, what should producers look for when selecting loafing shed housing facilities for their livestock?

“Livestock are hard on shelters, so something that is solidly constructed is a must,” Kauffman says. “Also, the ability to get your shelter to the location where it is most needed is key. We’re simply in the business of providing reliable livestock protection at the right place and at the right time for those producers/hobbyists looking for effective protection for their livestock.”

Calf Hutches
When Charlie Raml, owner of Iron Ranch Manufacturing, established his company near Watertown, South Dakota in 2012, he had the vision to develop a line of products that would allow his customers to work smarter, not harder. As such, he has engineered his products, including an innovative calf shelter, to be set up quickly and easily by a single person.

“My main goal in this business is to provide a quality product that will last for years to come,”

Raml states on his web site, “I value the opinion of my customers, and have even designed new products based on their feedback. I plan to build a legacy of products that fill a need and deliver excellence.”

Raml’s main focus is on calf shelters and he’s designed a luxurious home for calves that is user friendly for the owner. While Raml founded his company in 2012, it was five years later, in early 2017, when he started advertising his new calf housing design. He sold his first production shelter in February 2017.

“I spent time researching design options, even contacting several veterinarians and a local collegiate animal science department to discuss the difference in front entry versus end entry for calves.” Based on Raml’s research and patented design, he developed a shelter that boasts:

• A front entry design that allows airflow to distribute more evenly inside the shelter, which keeps a more even temperature throughout.
• A walk-thru door that provides easy access to check or treat calves, and spread straw.
• A swinging gate that closes for catching calves, or keeping them out come spring.
• The lifting bar that makes it easy to pick up and relocate with a bucket from either side.
• Ventilation to allow air flow which helps keep it dry and helps to prevent bacteria from growing.
• Skylights to help light up the shelter to keep it warm and dry.

As Raml explains, his calf shelter is ventilated at both ends to allow air flow which helps keep it dry, helping to prevent bacteria from growing.

“Close the vents during a snow storm to help prevent snow from blowing inside, and open the window to allow maximum airflow while the ground is thawing to prevent moisture buildup,” Raml says. “The skylights across the roof help light up the shelter to keep it warm and dry.”

When selecting calf shelters, Raml says the main key to any calf shelter is ventilation. A shelter needs to be air tight during a snow storm to prevent snow from blowing inside and also needs to be able to breathe in the spring time when the ground is thawing.  

“With a large window on the door and air vents at both ends that will open and close, I have solved the ventilation issue most shelter designs have,” says Raml, who has engineered his products so an individual can set them up faster, easier, and more safely.

“This is important because most cattlemen would agree they don’t have time to waste during calving season, especially during the cold winter months,” Raml says. “I’ve taken my experience growing up on a cattle farm, my education in welding and manufacturing engineering, and the concerns of local cattlemen to design and manufacture products meant for ease of use. I proudly engineer every product I sell, which includes shelters, windbreak, shades, free-standing panels, and continuous fence.”

Group Housing Options
The team at Agri-Plastics recognizes that when calves are raised in calf hutches and then, after weaning, are placed with a larger group of calves, it can cause stress on the animals and impact their physical well-being. That’s why Agri-Plastics offers group hutch options, in addition to the company’s individual calf hutch products.

Not only do group hutches help calves slowly adapt to being with other animals, but the group hutch can help eliminate the competition for food and water.

“In many instances calves are benefiting from a calmer/more competitive atmosphere which coaxes the animal(s) to eat and gain at a more efficient rate,” says Paul Prekup, Agri-Plastics Sales Manager. “Agri-Plastics has taken the approach with our calf growing systems to let the producers/veterinarians choose when to co-mingle animals. With these containment solutions, producers/veterinarians can keep animals isolated until they feel it’s the best time to move them in to a group setting.”

When evaluating group housing or individual calf pens, the products need to be evaluated for durability, ventilation, and user/animal friendly. As Prekup explains, equipment has to stand up to the rigors of the farm yet be easy to tear down, clean and sanitize.

“This dove tails with the pull of a pin and divider, the calves are safe and totally co-mingle in a quick and safe way,” Prekup says. “In addition, ventilation is also a key component in calf housing.” Agri-Plastics calf housing products are designed to maximize fresh airflow while minimizing ammonia for improved calf health and comfort. In all our hutches and pens, the temperature is always comfortable. There is plenty of airflow allowing the temperature to be at a consistent rate all the time.

And whether purchasing calf hutches or group hutches, Agri-Plastics focuses on five key “must have” attributes of calf housing to boost the health and well-being of new calves. These include ventilation, bedding, temperature, feeding and management. For instance, Agri-Plastics calf housing units feature a 3-in-One Rear Bedding Door to allow producers to have access to the rear of the hutch to change bedding, while also allowing for optimal ventilation and air-flow so the temperature can be consistent at all times for young calves. And when it comes to feeding calves within the hutch environment, Agri-Plastics has developed unique bucket holders with a splash guard to help prevent cross contamination of calves’ food.

Agri-Plastics also recently introduced its new Buddy Hutch, which is similar in features to the company’s Group Hutch, but is ideal for paired newborn calves to reduce weaning distress. It also helps with faster weight gains and promotes solid feed intake and increases socialization among paired calves. And because newborn calves are smaller, the new Group Hutch features a lower door height to limit drafts and a rear door grid guard that offers security for the young calves.  

“We as producers and companies that supply solutions for the livestock industry, have to be cognizant that we are in the “optics” business,” Prekup says. “We need to appease our customer base. That customer wants and demands us to show that we are treating our animals properly. Our customers are demanding that animals have access to the outdoors. They also don’t want to see animals contained like a dog or wild animal. This is why group housing has become a focus for producers. Items like “tethering” calves are being scrutinized with a stern eye. As much as a producer thinks they are doing the best for the animal, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the view from our customer base that are paying us money for our products. Whether we like it or not, get on board because the train is leaving the station!”