Are calf jackets a real alternative to straw bedding?

Could jackets be an alternative when wintering calves this year?
Could jackets be an alternative when wintering calves this year?

Jackets for calves may become popular this winter as farmers plan to feed straw and look at providing alternative bedding solutions.

There are viable alternatives to the use of straw as bedding. Teagasc recommends, however, that calves under eight weeks of age get priority for any straw that is available since straw traps faeces and urine so pens can be readily cleaned out and disinfected.

Other bedding materials may not provide adequate warmth for young calves.

Bedding materials include woodchip, wood shavings, sawdust and rushes. There is scope to use woodchip for indoor bedding although there is little experience of this in Ireland.

Farmers have successfully used these materials in combination with straw and they have also mixed woodchip with peat to extend the bedding interval. Peat should only be used as a short-term solution where there is no viable alternative.

The recommendation with woodchip is to initially put a 10cm layer in place and then to top up as required, which is generally every seven to 10 days, but this is very dependent on the diet.

Woodchip, in general, is very suitable as bedding, animals stay clean and there is little dust. A 100m3 load weighing approximately 20 to 25 tonne will cost approximately €1,230 delivered including VAT.

Calf jackets and slats

Rearing calves on plastic or hardwood slats while keeping young calves warm by using calf jackets may be a viable option for some farmers.