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This case study outlines information, specifications, and videos about calf housing sheds built with calf comfort in mind.


Farmer'€™s name: Annie Gay

Location: Coomboona, VIC

Structure type: Purpose built

Approx cost: $50K and over

Date built: 2006/2007

Supplier: Telfords, Shepparton

Management system: Individual and group pens inside shed and group pens (each with an igloo) just outside the shed

Total no. calves reared per year: 1000 calves/year, year round

Calving pattern: Year round 

Other: All fittings in the shed are permanent, in that they are bolted into the cement floor.

  • Copy Link Video tour

    Video tour

    Annie Gay takes you through her purpose-built shed that houses 400 calves and features computer controlled feeders for both milk and grain.

    Video takes approx 15 secs to start after clicking the 'play' icon.

  • Copy Link Images


    Images of the calf housing shed at the Gay's farm.

    Click to view in larger format.

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed specifications

    Shed structure:

    Construction materials: 
    Walls: Colour bond
    Roof: Zinc
    Floor: Cement
    External yard: Cement

    Aspect: Car park for building faces the south wall; the winds are predominantly from the south west

    Structure (LxWxH): 30.32 x 30.17 x 6.1 m
    External yard/calf paddock: 7.1 x 6.0 m / approx 52 m x 40 m

    Roof Design:

    Pitch (1:4): 7.5 degrees
    Roof openings (50-75mm/3m width): 10 x rotary ventilators (each 300 mm in diameter) located along peak in roof
    Overhang eves (900mm): Nil
    Roof height: lowest point 5.1m, highest point 7.1m

    Air space:

    Total air space (LxWxH): 5580m3
    Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3): 31.7m3


    Type: passive, fan-forced
    Cooling/airflow: Sliding doors are located on all 4 sides of the shed, 4 sliding doors provide a maximum of 9.6 m x 5.0 m opening on the south and the north walls while 2 sliding doors provide a maximum of 9.6 x 6.0 m opening on the east and the west walls 

    Shed capacity: 

    Maximum no calves housed at peak: 176 (92 individual pens & 12 per group pen)
    Month of peak use: Sep to Nov & Feb to Mar
    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (wks): Calves remain in the individual pens until 30 days of age and are then bulked in the group pen until about 2 months of age. They are then moved into calf paddocks, each with an igloo, until they are weaned at about 3 months of age, or 110 kg live weight. They then move into outdoor paddocks each with a shade cloth for another one month until they are finally moved to the nearby Coomboona farm.
    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use): 30 to 50 man hours per day
    Labour hours / 50 calves at peak (total man-hours/50 calves/day): 8.5 to 14.2 man hours/50 calves/day
    Other: The colostrum from each calving cow is tested for quality and graded as A or B after which it is frozen for long term storage. Each new born calf is given colostrum (2 to 3 L/calf at birth followed by another 2 to 3 L/calf within 12 hours of birth) via a nursing bottle prior to being moved into the calf shed. Calves are each given a probiotic paste for their first three days of rearing to improve their immunity and digestion.

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen specifications

    Pen structure:

    Type: individual / group no of calves per pen.
    92 individual pens: each 2.5 m deep x 1.1 m wide x 1.2 m high, with solid plastic walls between pens
    8 group pens: each 10 m deep x 6.5 m wide with additional area 7.1 x 6.0 m outside the shed for morning feeding.
    8 calf paddocks: 52 x 40 m, each with an igloo
    Wall height (mm): 1.2 m height between individual pens
    Wall materials: (solid/mesh)

    Individual pens

    Front: mesh, permanent
    Sides: solid plastic, permanent
    Back: solid plastic, permanent

    Group pens: mesh/gates on front, sides and back. Back opens onto outside yards via a large sliding door

    Outdoor calf paddocks: Trees are planted along the fence lines between calf paddocks to provide shade. Each paddock also has an igloo for protecting the stock against weather extremes.

    Removable: Side walls swing back to wall and can be removed for cleaning

    Other: The individual pens are in batches of 8 to 12, separated by alleyways (from 2.2 to 3.4 m wide), for ease of access for feeding and cleaning out each pen; the shed has been built to minimise contact between individual calf pens, to maintain high biosecurity for Johne'€™s Disease. Hence the use of high grade plastic at the back and side of each pen.

    Pen flooring:

    Type: Concrete throughout the shed and the outside section of the group pens
    Drainage: Each individual pen slopes to the front of the pen (away from the bedding) then into a spoon drain which runs along the middle of the alleyways.
    Total floor space per pen (m2):
    Individual pens: 2.75 m2
    Each group pen: 65 m2 inside the shed and 42.6 m2 outside the shed
    Each calf paddock: 2080 m2 
    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2):
    Individual pens: 2.75 m2/calf
    Group pens: 5.4 m2/calf inside and 3.5 m2/calf outside @ 12 calves/ pen


    Type: The back half of each individual pen is covered with about 110 mm of wood chips (to facilitate drainage) overlain by 110 mm saw dust (for comfort). Each group pen also has an area (approx. 3 x 2 m) of wood chips/saw dust.The front half of each individual pen has a large rubber mat while and the rest of the group pens do not have any bedding material over the concrete floor, for ease of draining effluent
    Minimum depth: 150mm
    110 mm wood chips overlain by 110 mm saw dust, in both the individual and the group pens
    Maintenance: (top-up or replacement)frequency and/or timing
    The bedding in each individual pen is topped up as required and cleaned out when each calf is moved into the group pens. Likewise, the bedding in the group pens is periodically topped up then removed completely when each batch of calves are moved to the calf paddocks.
    Other: Handling and storage system for used bedding
    The soiled bedding is discarded in a nearby bunker and eventually used for fertilising pastures

    Feed and water:

    Milk feeding system type: Calves are only fed calf milk replacer (CMR), which contains 22% fat and 28% protein. It is fed via teats for their first 10 days in the individual pens, then via buckets for the rest of the time. In the group pens, calves are fed CMR via large drums (inside during inclement weather) or via a stainless steel trough when fed in the outside yards each morning. Trough feeding is also used while in the calf paddocks.
    Milk delivery method: (pump, bucket, tank) The CMR is mixed in an old milk vat then distributed to each pen via a tank (and pump) on a trailer towed by a small tractor. To minimise the possibility of feeding into the wrong bucket, each individual pen has three buckets of different colours attached to the front of the pen, a red one for CMR, a black one for water and a green one for calf meal
    Hay: Hay is offered to each calf only in the group pens and calf paddocks
    Pellets: Calves are fed a formulated grain mix while in the individual pens and another formulated grain mix while in the group pens. Bull calves are fed formulated calf pellets in the group pens. The calf meal fed in the individual pens contains 20.8% protein and 13.3 MJ/kg DM of metabolisable energy.
    Water: Water is freely available in buckets in each individual pen and in large drums in the group pens and calf paddocks.
    Other: Calves are fed 4 L/day of CMR (twice daily feeding) for one month while in the individual pens followed by 4 L/day (once daily feeding) for a second month while in the inside group pens, followed by 5 to 6 L/day (once daily feeding) for their last month of milk feeding while in the outside group pens.

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Other infrastructure

    Cleaning & Disinfection:

    Type: batch / continuous flow batch 
    Disinfectants/sanitisers are routinely used for sterilising all equipment used for feeding calves


    Boot / hand washing facilities: Routine
    Access restrictions: Routine
    Separate clothing/boots: Routine
    Housing of sale calves: Sick calves are kept separate from the healthy calves and their feeding equipment (and pens) is cleaned last each day. Staff use a separate set of disposable gloves when attending to each sick animal.
    Quarantine area for sick calves: See above
    Other: All calf records are kept in a folder for ease of accessing and they are also stored electronically. There are a series of SOP'€™s (Standard Operating Procedures) clearly available to calf rearing staff. Each row of individual pens has a white board for recording specific daily observations and staff instructions.

    Feed preparation and storage:

    Facilities (if in calf shed): Formulated calf meals and pellets are stored in a silo. CMR is stored in 20 kg bags.

  • Copy Link Layout


    Layout of calf housing shed at Gay.

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