The welfare of cattle on your farm is crucial. Cattle that are stressed can easily become sick or lethargic – and for milk cows, this is never good news. Beef cattle also need to be kept healthy throughout their lives. Sick animals can easily get other animals sick, and the last thing any farm needs is a vet bill that keeping raising.
Housing for cattle should have enough space for all the animals to lie down and sleep in comfort, interact with each other, and stand up and move freely. You should take advice from a vet on the best space allowance for cattle housed in groups, taking into consideration the following points:
- The environment the cattle are in.
- The age, sex, and behavioural needs of the cattle.
- The size of the group.
- Whether any of the animals have horns.
When feed and water troughs are accessible from the area that your cattle are using to sleep in, you should check that they don’t become fouled. Troughs should be regularly cleaned and disinfected using animal-safe products that promote good biosecurity.
For any water used in and around the housing, especially for cleaning purposes, it’s always best to treat the water with a solution or chlorine tablet that is effective against bacteria, fungi, viruses and spores.
The floors of your cattle housing shouldn’t slope too steeply as steeper slopes can cause leg problems and slipping and falling – which can lead to injuries. You shouldn’t let slurry build up on concrete floors and passageways, as this will also make the floor slippery. A regular cleaning routine will always be beneficial to your farm. Good biosecurity is vital to ensure that hygiene standards are being met and upheld by your farm. Without a routine, it’s very easy to spread disease and infection.
When it comes to legal housing requirements for your cattle, you should be made aware that they vary depending on the kind of barn and yard space your farm has for your cattle. It’s best to check with your local governing authority online for cattle housing requirements in your country. As a rough guide for the UK, however, if your farm has a cattle barn with a yard, then calves should be awarded 15 – 20 square feet per calf of 400 – 800lbs, and finishers should be given 20 – 30 square feet.
The primary purpose of housing is to provide shelter from the elements for your cattle, but if they have sufficient protection from the weather, then they may be kept outside. In this situation, a well-drained yard with a good windbreak is a suitable alternative. When you’re determining how much space you need for your calves and finishers, consider the actual usable lying space in the area you want to use, rather than the total size of the barn. Deduct any space that you’ll be using for feeders and waterers, as well as alley space and space next to the feeders that is not suitable for resting.