Hot Weather and Hutch Management
During hot summer weather we are correctly concerned about calf comfort in our hutch housing. In recent research four different hutch treatments were compared.
At one extreme design, the hutch had only one fixed size vent in the rear and was flat on the stone base. At the other extreme, the hutch had the fixed size rear vent and was elevated 6" (15cm) in the rear. Intermediate designs were flat on the stone base with greater vent areas.
The outcomes were:
1. No difference in weight gain across 4 hutch types.
2. The temperature-humidity index inside the hutches did vary under hot conditions (for example, 92F-20% RH, 95F-10%RH) when comparing the two extreme designs. This suggests that calves may have been more comfortable in hutches that were raised 6" in rear compared to those flat on the stone base.
But, management can influence the effectiveness of raising the rear of hutches in decreasing the temperature-humidity index. The below left picture shows the desired open area to allow air movement. The picture at the right shows how careless handling of straw bedding has blocked the opening at the rear of the hutch. In the center below, wood shavings have been thrown into the back of the hutch, again blocking most of the air vent.
(Reuscher, K.J. and Others, "Effect of calf hutch type on calf performance and calf hutch temperature-humidity index" Journal of Dairy Science Supplement 2, 101:18 July 2018)