By Tom Collins
NEW DUNDEE — A Waterloo County dairy farmer loves his calf hutches but said he was growing weary of them because they were hard to work with.
They are great for calves but cumbersome for the farmer, Joe Doré said. He hated crouching by the hutches to feed milk to calves and it was always too dark in the hutches. So, he came up with a unique solution of positioning the calf hutches around a brightly-lit open-concept barn.
The new 36-foot-by-108-foot barn, designed by Doré of Heritage Hills Farms at New Dundee, can hold 24 milk-fed calves (two calves to a hutch) and 32 weaned calves (four to a hutch). The barn is basically a roof on posts. There are no walls, and while it doesn’t stop the cold temperatures or the wind, it does keep the rain, snow and sleet away.
Every part of the barn exposed to the weather is galvanized steel and there are beams every eight feet to allow for custom gates. The $175,000 barn has bright lighting and a nearby hydrant for easier access to water. Calves do not need to be chained. When they leave the hutch they enter a stall, giving them more freedom to move. Teaching a calf to drink is now a lot easier. Doré can do it standing up in the pen instead of crouched in the hutch.
“We love it,” Doré said. “Feeding calves has gone from everyone’s most hated job to one of the more fun jobs.”
Doré, who milks 90 cows in a Herringbone double-eight parlour, spent three winters designing a normal calf barn, only to give up on it each spring.
“The cost, the expense, and the risk of disease in a fully-enclosed, mechanically-ventilated (barn) was a little bit daunting,” he said. Doré was looking online for something that could work, and when he couldn’t find anything, he designed the barn himself.
The calves moved in last October and the feeding has increased significantly. Doré switched from feeding by bottles to feeding by milk bars (or mob feeders), multiple nipples on a milk pail. While calves used to be fed three litres per feeding twice a day, the new system allows calves up to two weeks old to get four litres twice a day. Calves aged two-to-four weeks old are fed five litres twice a day and those aged four weeks to weaning are given six litres twice a day.
“They’re definitely growing faster,” said Doré. “They’re huge. It used to be no problem to handle a weaned calf on a halter, and now it’s become quite the fight to get them to move.”