A brief introduction to help get your calving barn design started

Calving facilities are only a small part of a comprehensive calving program. But like all other elements of your program, there is value in considering the importance of each piece. Just as there are a number of factors that will affect your decision to calve at a particular time of year, you will similarly consider many factors before purchasing the equipment you require for your calving facilities.

The time of year, and your location, may have an impact on your decision to calve in pasture, in a shelter, or in a barn. Whatever your decision, your first thoughts should be towards keeping both your cows and your new calves healthy and happy. You invest a lot in getting your cows ready for calving. Protect your investment by keeping your calving area clean, dry, and protected from the wind. Ensure your calving location will by on high ground that is not susceptible to mud or flooding. If you can't avoid mud consider installing paddock slabs to control the mud.

Once you have taken care of ensuring your cows will be kept safe, happy and healthy, you can consider how effectively you can work in the calving space.

Calving Barn Design

If a calving barn fits in with your calving program, one of the key decisions you will make is where to locate your head gate stanchion. When designing your calving barn, try to locate your Hi-Hog calving enclosure, or calving/trimming chute, so your cows will enter the head gate as easily as possible. The simplest way to do this is to locate the head gate stanchion where your cows want to go.

Since cows under pressure like to return to where they felt safer you will have greater success if you locate the chute to take advantage of this behavior. This could be along an alley that leads back towards the pasture. 

You should keep the area in front of the head gate clear of obstructions and distractions. The area in front of the head gate should also be well lit. Lastly, try to keep the area around the chute as clear as possible so you will have no restrictions with any procedures you may need to perform, including having to pull a calf.

In addition to locating the head gate you will also need to consider the size and quantity of penning you will require:

  • Large group pens for cows you are watching. These may be just outside of the barn.
  • Pens for cows that are calving
  • Pens for holding calving pairs.  (for two or three days during poor weather conditions)
  • If room is available; after 24 hours of bonding, a heifer and her calf can be moved into a large group pen with other heifers and calves (if weather permits the group pen can be outside. Your pens should be maintained with clean fresh bedding and protected from the weather)

How best should these pens be laid out in your barn to encourage optimum flow and minimum stress?

Additional design considerations:

  • Are your vet supplies nearby and safely stored?
  • Are your bedding supplies easily accessible?
  • How difficult will it be for your animals to move through your facilities?
  • How difficult will it be for your handlers to move through your facilities?
  • How difficult will it be to keep your facilities clean and dry? Keeping your facilities clean is your best prevention against pathogens.
  • Can you provide feed and water efficiently?
  • Is there lots of light; man made and/or natural?
  • Is there good airflow?
  • Does the shelter provide adequate shelter from the cold?

Be Prepared

Lower your stress by being prepared. Take time to look at your calving facilities well before calving season begins. Make sure you have everything you need to provide your livestock with the best care. Your early attention will make for happier, and healthier, cows and calves, and lower your own stress levels.

Looking for design inspiration? Visit Hi-Hog's Sample Calving Barn Designs 

Free Calving Barn Design Service:

If you have any questions, or you would like Hi-Hog’s assistance to modify one of the sample plans, simply contact Hi-Hog Sales & Service during business hours and one of Hi-Hog's design staff will assist you with your design. This is a FREE service. You can also check out the kinds of questions our designers will have for you on the Calving Barn Design Service web page.

If you’re calling from within mainland North America you can reach us toll free at 1-800-661-7002 (Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm MST).

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