University of Minnesota

After many years of housing calves in outdoor hutches, the University of Minnesota's calf and heifer experts decided to bring operations indoors.

Built in 2004, the site includes two single-trussed, naturally ventilated barns with curtain sides. Each barn has two rooms with space for 40 calves per room or a total of 160 individual indoor calf pens. About eight hundred calves (two to 200 days of age) flow through the facility each year. The calves are owned by commercial dairy operations and eventually join milking herds. About half the animals are subjects in nutrition, management and health studies. However, the university's emphasis is to manage the calves so all information is directly applicable to commercial farms.

Dr. Hugh Chester-Jones (shown in photo), a UM associate professor in animal science who oversees the facility, says his team's selection of Comfy Calf Suites was based on wanting the flexibility to efficiently tear down pens between calf groups and also durability. He says he liked Comfy Calf Suites' solid panel design, built to hold up under wear and tear from calves and every day management. Cleaning ease was also an important factor in choosing this pen design. "It power washes nicely, cleans up well and dries between calf groups," says Dr. Chester-Jones.

Observation is also efficient. "You can walk by very quickly and observe calves in the pens," Dr. Chester-Jones adds. "If there is a calf that is sick, you can easily open up the door and go inside, and look at the calf closely and take its temperature."

With two years of experience with Comfy Calf Suites, Dr. Chester- Jones reports, "It is a very easy pen to manage."


Majestic View Dairy

In early 2005 Ron and Terri Abing were deciding which calf penning system to use in a second solar barn at Majestic View Dairy, their 1,000-cow operation in Lancaster, WI. After a quick review of the options, the Abings again selected Comfy Calf Suites, the same penning design they have in a solar barn built in 2003.

"There was nothing I didn't like about the system," says Terri, who works with the farm's calf manager, Sara Recker, to oversee calf operations.

In the past the farm used plywood and wire for calf dividers. The heavy duty plastic side panels in Comfy Calf Suites are far superior, says Terri, adding that they have shown virtually no damage from calves or from handling after three years of use. Terri also emphasizes that avoiding the repainting and maintenance needed with plywood calf dividers is a big plus.

Terri also liked the easy observation and caring for calves Comfy Calf Suites provides. "I think employees spend more time with each calf," says Terri. "In huts, when they are feeding, they have to be constantly bent over and that is so uncomfortable," she says.

When calves are weaned at five to six weeks of age in batches of ten, Terri simply pulls out the Comfy Calf Suite side panels and cleans the straw bedding pack with a skidsteer loader. Panels are pressure-washed after each group and Terri likes the fact that they are made of a non-porous material. "With the smooth surface, I don't think bugs can get inside as easily and hide," she says.  

Dennis & Barbara Reiman

We Saved Time and Money with (CanarmAg) Calf Pens. Previously we had individual outside calf hutches. We had to deal with Ohio's ever changing weather: wind, rain, sleet, snow and the heat of the summer. We recently expanded our herd from 100 cows to 400 cows. The extra labor and expense of individual hutches and the amount of land area to put them on had us looking for a better way.

We designed a 36x120 curtain barn with 72 individual pens 3' by 9'. We use the barn from day 1 to three months of age. As calves reach weaning age we simply remove panels and make group pens. By doing this we greatly reduce stress on the animal at the transition time. Dealing with baby calves in the (CanarmAg) individual calf hutch has made life much easier. Labor time has been cut in half. No more bending over to get inside a covered hutch. With individual (CanarmAg) calf headlocks we can now give medications, dehorn, ear tag and do not have to go into the pen. If we have to get into the pen the front head gate can be swung open with one hand for quick and easy access. The heavy galvanized coating should make them last for many years to come.

Loren Lopes

My name is Loren Lopes. I operate a dairy in Turlock California and raise about 250 heifer calves. Many of our problems were solved with the (Canarm AgSystems) Comfy Calf Suite system. We were using wooden elevated calf hutches and had difficulty observing the health of the calves. And now the calves are healthier because they have more area and are separated from one another. Now that we are starting half the calves in the (Canarm AgSystems) Comfy Calf Suites we can observe a big difference between the two systems. The first calves that we compared were born in March 2004.
[Results of Loren Lopes' comparison are shown in table below.]
We are very pleased with the Comfy Calf Suites and want to convert the whole barn over.