Recommendations for Calf and Heifer Housing Dimensions for Holsteins

Summary of design suggestions for planning calf and heifer housing systems for Holstein dairy cattle; a starting point for the design process.
Recommendations for Calf and Heifer Housing Dimensions for Holsteins - Articles
Recommendations for Calf and Heifer Housing Dimensions for Holsteins

Photo credit: Amber Yutzy

The following table summarizes a variety of design information or suggestions useful when planning calf and heifer housing systems for Holstein dairy cattle. Due to variations in management goals, herd size, and calvings this information represents a starting point in the design process. You may not be able to meet all suggestions in any particular design. When organizing groups consider feeding requirements, management needs, and especially size and age variation among animals in the same group. As a general rule of thumb smaller group sizes increase ease of observing and identifying animals that require special attention. Groups of animals over 6 months of age may be organized differently based on variations in herd size and calving frequency.

  • Table items in bold represent critical design or management recommendations.
  • To reduce the likelihood of injury and poor growth pay particular attention to the variation of size of animals in any group.
  • Provide continuously available fresh, clean, frost-free water to all animals.
  • Provide access to a convenient means for restraining all animals either in their pen or in adjacent working facility.
  • Feed barriers with gangs of self-closing stanchions are often used for heifer restraint and feeding. Experience has shown that young animals have difficulty learning to maneuver in and out of these devices. For this reason self-closing stanchions are not recommended for newly weaned and grouped animals. Close observation and procedures for acclimating animals to these devices are recommended.
Suggested Calf and Heifer Housing Space Requirements for Holsteins
Group #NameTypical or Estimated AgeTypical or Estimated WeightMaximum Animals per GroupMaximum Age Spread in GroupMaximum Weight Variation in GroupWidth of Minimum Space for Animal to Eat1Minimum Bedded Pen or Pack Area per Animal (excludes feeding area)2Suggested Freestall Size (length x width)
1These numbers represent the space occupied along a feed barrier by an animal while eating. Whether all animals can access feed at the same time is controlled by the total length of feed barrier available to the group and the number of animals. Floor plans that do not allow all animals in a pen to eat at the same time require appropriate feeding management. Once animals are accustomed to group living and eating the number of animals that are allowed to eat at the same time should be determined by feeding and management decisions. See DIP 831 Fenceline Feed Barriers (page 251) and DIP 832 Individual Feeding Fronts for Baby Calves (page 256) for recommended types, sizes and construction of feed barriers for calves and heifers.
2Animal cleanliness and pack maintenance frequency and labor are directly related to space provided per animal.
1baby calf0 to 2 monthsbirth weight to 175 lbs.1N/AN/AN/A30 sq. ft.Do Not Use
2weaned calf2 to 4 months175 to 300 lbs.71 month18 in. with slant bar dividers30 sq. ft.Do Not Use
3heifer4 to 8 months300 to 500 lbs.based on management ability and calving rate4 months200 pounds15 in.40 sq. ft.Do Not Use
4heifer8 to 12 months500 to 700 lbs.based on management ability and calving rate4 months200 pounds17 in.50 sq. ft.69" x 36"
5heifer12 to 16 months700 to 900 lbs.based on management ability and calving rate4 months200 pounds19 in.60 sq. ft.84" x 40"
6heifer16 to 20 months900 to 1,100 lbs.based on management ability and calving rate4 months200 pounds22 in.70 sq. ft.96" x 43"
7heifer20 months to 1 month pre‐calving1,100 to 1,300 lbs.based on management ability and calving rate4 months200 pounds24 in.80 sq. ft.102" x 45"
8pre‐fresh heiferpre‐calving (2 to 4 weeks)30 in.120 sq. ft.108" x 48"

Source: 2008. Graves, R. E., J. T. Tyson, D. F. McFarland, T. H. Wilson. Penn State Housing Plans for Calves and Heifers, NRAES‐201. Page 278.

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