[Germantown (WI), 11.30.2023] – Hampel’s Calf-Tel, a leading name in the agricultural industry, is excited to announce the appointment of Alessio Tenca as the new Sales Manager for Italy. This move showcases the company’s commitment to strengthening its presence and enhancing customer experience in the region.
Alessio, originally from Sydney, Australia, decided to return to his homeland, Italy, in 1991. He later completed his education there. With over two decades of experience in the agricultural sector, Alessio has consistently demonstrated excellence in animal wellness and biosecurity in farming. His expertise has been instrumental in addressing challenges and driving growth in the industry.
In 2014, Alessio commenced his journey with Hampel as a dealer in Italy. His primary role was to spearhead the sales and expansion of Calf-Tel products in the country. Given his remarkable accomplishments and dedication, in 2023, Hampel provided Alessio with the unique opportunity to work directly with the team. This role would see him contributing not only in Italy but also extending his expertise across regions like the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand.
“We are thrilled to have Alessio on board in this new capacity,” said Brandon Sowder, Director of Global Business Development. “His extensive experience and deep understanding of the agricultural domain will be instrumental in propelling Calf-Tel’s vision forward. We believe that with Alessio leading the way in Italy, we are poised for unparalleled growth and success in the coming years.”
Hampel’s Calf-Tel, a division of Hampel Corporation, began serving the agriculture industry in 1981 with the introduction of Calf-Tel housing systems. Today it is the number one choice for calf housing, worldwide. For more information, visit www.Calf-Tel.com or learn more at www.facebook.com/calftel and www.youtube.com/calftel.
Dystocia, or difficult calving, is not desirable, but it is an inevitable situation that we will have to face from time to time, and repercussions for cows and calves are complex. For example, even slight assistance can have an impact on production and fertility, not to mention on calf morbidity and mortality. Regardless of your calving management system, it is crucial to understand the process and stages of parturition.
What should we know about calving?
Cows go through three stages of calving, and it starts days before calving when the calf’s cortisol (stress hormone) triggers hormonal changes in the cow that initiates parturition.
The first stage refers to the cervix’s dilatation and can last between 4-24 hours, depending on parity. As hormones dilate the cervix, other signs begin to show, for example, the first one can be isolation, and as the time to calve comes closer, the cow displays other signs such as raising the tail, increasing laying bouts, and paying attention to the abdomen.
Once the cow is dilated and the calf is in delivery position, stage 2, which is delivery of the calf, starts. It is considered that stage two starts once the cow has frequent abdominal contractions (ideally 2-3 per minute) and the “water bag” (amniotic sac) is shown. The normal duration of this second stage can go anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for multiparous cows and 3-4 hours for primiparous cows. Stage 2 ends when the calf is born. The third stage is the expulsion of the placenta.
Cow in Stage 2, notice the attention to abdomen and amniotic sac is shown.
When do I need to check?
Assisting calving can be challenging since each cow is different, and the process can be affected by various factors, including environmental conditions. However, here are some practical tips that can help determine whether intervention is necessary.
Once you recognize the cow is in stage 2, check progress every 30 minutes. If you don’t know when the cow started stage 2, be patient and give time to monitor.
If the cow is in stage 2 and there is no progress in 30 minutes, you could proceed to do a vaginal exam.
If the cow is in stage 1 and there is no progress in 2-4 hours, you could proceed to do a vaginal exam.
Keep in mind if the cow is still having uterine contractions (2-3 per minute).
How to do a vaginal exam?
When doing a vaginal exam, always remember these golden rules:
Cleanliness: Prepare and clean the vaginal area of the cow to reduce the risk of infections.
Lubrication: Lubrication helps with friction; less force is needed and decreases the risk of injuries to the cow and calf.
The first step is to evaluate the cervix dilatation. No progress will be made if the cow is not dilatated enough for the calf to go through. The next step is to evaluate the calf’s position or the reason for slow progress.
What is the calf position, anterior (head first) or posterior (tail first)?
Is the calf too big? Is the calf alive?
Is there any obstruction?
Is the water bag broken?
Calving workshops delivered by Cornell Cooperative Extension specialist.
When identifying the front legs from the hind legs, two joints will flex in the same direction for the front legs. On the contrary, the two joints will flex in opposite directions for the hind legs.
Always pull when the cow is having a contraction.
When using chains, two loops (one above and one below the fetlock) will reduce the risk of injury for the calf.
Rotation of the calf (90 degrees) can help avoid hip lock.
When manipulating a leg inside the cow’s uterus, protect the calf’s hooves with your hand to avoid lacerations to the uterus.
There is no secret recipe for how to intervene in each dystocia, every case is different, and there may be difficult scenarios where you will need professional assistance from your veterinarian. Nonetheless, intervening calmly and precisely is crucial for a smooth transition into lactation, reducing injuries, and prioritizing the welfare of cows and calves.
Daniela González is a Dairy Management Specialist with the North Country Regional Ag Team from Cornell Cooperative Extension. She earned her degree in Veterinary Medicine in Mexico City and her Master of Professional Studies degree from Cornell University in Animal Science with a concentration in dairy business management. Daniela’s interests include reproduction, herd health, and business management. Back in Mexico, Daniela worked on dairy farms as a veterinarian. She also collaborated with small and medium dairy farms in her community, allowing her to gain experience and interest in extension work.
While Calf-Tel is known for their calf hutches, Calf-Tel has become a big player in the indoor housing market. Today, we’re going to hear from two customers and a strategic planning specialist. These individuals were willing to share their experiences so we can get an inside look at what having indoor calf housing looks like!
Beth and John Borer operate Edelweiss Farms in Freedom, New York. They currently milk 4500 cows and have 3 calf barns.
Ryan and Mark Akins operate Five Mile Line Farm, in Lisbon, New York. They are milking 850 cows and diversifying to sell holstein heifers.
Timothy Terry is a Dairy Farm Strategic Planning Specialist with Cornell Pro-Dairy. Please note that Timothy is not endorsing Calf-Tel products, but offering general insight as to what it takes to operate indoor calf housing facilities. After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees in animal science with an emphasis on dairy, Timothy spent 18 years in the industry managing commercial and university research herds. Timothy also taught dairy management courses at the collegiate level and provided nutrition services. For the last nine years Timothy has been employed as a Farmstead Strategic Planning Specialist, first with a regional team (Harvest NY) and now with Pro-Dairy. He has assisted in planning over 40 calf barns in the last nine years, including remodels and retrofits.
1.) How many calves are you raising at a time, and what made you decide to build a calf barn?
Beth: We are raising 500 calves at a time. I’ve always wanted to raise calves, but we didn’t have a place to keep them long term. I would care for them for the first 2 days of life and then they would go to our heifer grower. The opportunity finally came about and we built 1 calf barn for 100 calves. We outgrew that pretty quickly and built a 2nd the following year, then a third. Each barn holds 200 calves.
Ryan: We have about 150 calves on milk. We decided to build a calf barn to match our constant efforts to improve animal health and employee workload.
2.)What made Calf-Tel the most appealing option?
Beth: The durability, ease of cleaning, and set up of the calf pens. We also liked the different options you can choose from for the pens.
Ryan: Durability and the consulting service from both the dealer and Calf-Tel.
3.) What were the “must-haves” in your barn? The most important element?
Beth: My top must have was automatic curtains. We have the Maximus system, which senses temperature and weather, so I never have to worry about being at the barn to shut curtains. The most important element was ventilation. I wanted a fresh smelling barn with little to no ammonia smell.
Ryan: Airflow and cleanliness were the “must-haves”, while airflow was the most important element to prevent sick calves.
4.) What were some of the challenges and changes made during the building process?
Beth: Weather. Building in the late fall and the snow starts falling interfered with the concrete setting right. One of our changes took place during the first and second builds. The first barn we made 3” wide gutters in front of the calf pens. When we built the second barn we made the gutters 10” so we could fit a shovel through them for ease of cleaning.
Ryan: One of the challenges was the unknown if it would work for our farm. As far as changes made during the building process, we did not really change anything, we do our own construction. Which helps illustrate, visualize, and construct.
5.) If you were starting over, what would you do differently?
Beth: If we could start over we would try to tunnel ventilate our barns. We could control incoming and outgoing air, fly control and eliminate weather factors.
Ryan: At this time, we wouldn’t change anything yet.
6.)What is the most labor efficient element? Inefficient?
Beth: The most efficient element is the flow of the barn. Calves on both sides, we can quickly feed, water and grain them. We can also see each calf, which helps us to diagnose any sickness. Much more efficient than hutches. I honestly can’t think of anything inefficient because our goal is to be efficient.
Ryan: Not having sick calves helps us on labor efficiency, but to achieve this we forfeited some other labor saving/efficiency ideas. To name a few, we do not have curtains, cement walls, and it’s fairly open to the outside elements.
7.) Did you notice any changes in the calves?
Beth: Since we’ve built barns we’ve been able to grow a bigger and healthier calf. We can easily observe the calves and keep them out of the harsh weather conditions.
Ryan: We found the calves to be healthier and with scale weights we will have more data in the future.
8.) What advice do you have for those looking to build calf barns? What did you learn on your calf barn tours?
Beth: Always plan for bigger, have a well ventilated barn, and ask questions. My go to site when building was Dairy Moms on Facebook. I asked a lot of questions and so many shared pictures and tips of what they did. We toured several calf barns in many different states. We found it beneficial to see and hear from other farmers, what worked and didn’t work for them. We were able to take ideas from many different calf facilities and make one that worked for us. I would highly recommend taking calf barn tours.
Ryan: Specifically in a 3-day period I visited 15 farms in 3 states. My top 2 facilities were amongst those. I have visited them multiple times since. Tour a lot of facilities and ask a lot of questions. Sick calves and the drug usage is not always easy to see quickly. Take your time and analyze slowly.
PLANNING – TIMOTHY
1.) While every farm will have something a little different, is there a common theme or design in the construction of calf barns?
KISS – keep it simple. The fewer moving parts, bells, whistles, etc. the better. Sometimes just properly orienting it to the prevailing winds and not shoehorning it into the farmstead addresses a number of existing and/or potential issues.
2.) What is the most important element to consider when building calf barns?
Personnel… As engineers we can design systems to operate efficiently and effectively, but one individual who is not a team player can confound the whole operation by flipping a few switches and/ or turning a couple of dials. We have to make the desired settings the default response, the path of least resistance, or we have to limit the access to controls and maybe even reassign or dismiss personnel. I often encounter individuals who grew up in a warmer climate and like to “bump the thermostat” while they are working in the barn. Calves, as long as they are adequately fed and properly bedded, can tolerate a lot of cold – calf hutches are still the gold standard for calf health. Consider calf jackets for neonates. So, I give these individuals the two-sweatshirt rule: if you’re not wearing two sweatshirts (winter) while working with the calves it’s too warm in the barn, but I digress….
3.)What kind of challenges have you seen in the construction of calf barns? (including design)
Trying to cram too many (calves) or too many age groups into one facility. Individual care is often preferred. Experience has shown that groups of 12-16 work best on automatic feeders as long as there is at least 35 ft2 per calf. Limiting calf barns to just wet and transition calves is easier to manage. Adding in older calves, springing heifers, dry cows, pre-fresh makes ventilation, environmental control, and biosecurity a nightmare.
Does not consider long term growth. The barn satisfies current needs but fails to consider where the farm will be in just five years. Too often these are shoehorned into the farmstead so tightly there is no room for expansion or any future upgrades.
Selection and installation of one-size-fits-all; off-the-shelf systems that aren’t right for the application. This is usually a function of cost control. Unfortunately, the initial savings are usually lost on an unhealthy environment, sick and poor performing calves, premature building deterioration, etc.
Custom designed systems that didn’t properly consider or measure the needed applications. This is a significant portion of my farm calls. This often involves a positive pressure tube ventilation (PPTV) system that was “designed”. Unfortunately, something went wonky along the way – inputted barn dimensions were incorrect, wrong fan selected or installed, wrong tube delivered (is not what was designed), fan placed on a variable speed controller, etc., etc.
A corollary to #4 – Barn too large for the system or the system too small for the barn. We like to keep PPTV tubes at 100’ or less (yes, I’ve had 120’ systems work, but that’s the exception). A tube 400’ long, even with fans at both ends, just does not work.
Failure to properly account for the true cost of repurposing an existing facility. Frequently these require more investment – time and capital – than a new facility, and then you may still have to contend with the inherent inefficiencies and potential reduced animal performance.
4.) Is there any aspect that tends to be overlooked?
Timely maintenance of the systems, especially mechanical ventilation. Tillage equipment, planters, mowers, choppers, etc. seem to get all the love in the spring, but before all that starts plan on a “clean sweep down fore and aft” of the calf facility. Get into the corners. Make sure all systems are properly adjusted and correctly operating. Clean what needs to be cleaned, tighten what needs to be tightened, and lubricate wherever possible.
5.) What advice do you have for those looking into building calf barns?
First and foremost, get out and take a look around. See what is out there and talk to people about what is or is not working, what they like, what they would do differently. Ask the vendors of calf equipment who in your area have newer calf barns. Often regional sales staff may set up some farm tours for you, especially ones that are cutting edge or have a unique installation of their equipment. Then work with someone who can flesh out your ideas to scale to make sure it’s going to fit your needs. In other words, work out the kinks before you move that first yard of earth or pour the first load of concrete.
I want to thank Beth, Ryan, and Timothy for their experience and insight for this blog. We are fortunate to have such team players in our industry!
It seems the question comes up often in conversation: How should we design our new calf barn? And the true answer is that there is no one-stop, cookie cutter perfect barn to fit all situations. But there are several areas to be considered when developing a calf barn best suited to your operation and situation. Let’s start with some of the most basic questions. How many calves need to be housed? Does this number allow for future herd growth? Will you be managing sections or the whole barn as “all in, all out”? And let’s not forget that the pre-weaned calf has five basic needs, regardless of housing type. These are:
optimal quality and quantity of nutrition
free choice clean water
clean, dry and comfortable
adequate ventilation that is free of drafts
Where to Site the New Barn
So many naturally occurring factors can be very beneficial when selecting the site for a new barn, like prevailing winds, sunlight, natural slope and drainage.
Ventilation is one of the most critical considerations in any barn design, as we know that build ups of ammonia and pathogens in barns can be detrimental to pre-weaned calf health. Whenever possible, orienting the barn with openings capitalizing on the prevailing winds can be helpful, and be certain that other buildings or farm features don’t block or deflect the natural wind flow. If neighboring buildings exist, the barns should be spaced far enough apart that the natural ventilation is not compromised.
Where a new barn is situated can have a lot to do with the natural lay of the land. Natural slope, drainage and soil types may be considerations. Drainage is key as plans may need to include diverting water away from the barn to ensure the clean, dry housing so critical to optimal calf health. Additionally, taking advantage of natural northern light may also be a consideration.
One of the most important items when selecting a site for a pre-weaned calf barn is determining where it makes the most sense. Does it fit the logical flow of farm traffic for delivering milk and water? Is it upwind or away from any manure storage sites to limit any airborne pathogens or flies? Can feed and bedding be delivered to the barn easily? And can dirty bedding and manure be cleaned out and transported away from the site quickly and easily?
One last area of consideration before getting started are any local land use or zoning laws. Are there requirements on set backs from utilities or property lines or distances required from existing buildings. It is always best to do the homework on these details beforehand so the building project doesn’t get halted midway through.
So Many Details
Once the building site is determined and the proper building permits obtained, if required, there are so many details to consider in designing the pre-weaned calf barn. Before diving too far into building plans, be certain to check any local government or milk purchasers’ requirements for spatial and housing requirements for calves. In some regions, calves are required to be able to see one another and engage in “play”, while other areas have minimum square meters required per calf.
Take Advantage of Natural Air and Light. I wish good ventilation were as simple as capitalizing on prevailing breezes, but there is so much more to consider in a calf barn. Natural ventilation is the preferred method for youngstock housing because it reduces the cost of fans and electric, however, there are times when supplemental ventilation is required because winds are still, the barn is too wide to capitalize on the breezes, or the air outside the barn is warmer than that inside the barn. In this situation, the warmer air is coming into the cooler barn and rising to leave the barn without good mixing of the air near the floor where the calves reside. These limitations require us to consider supplemental or mechanical ventilation systems to assure that we provide pre-weaned calves with a minimum of four complete air exchanges each hour during winter weather (Dairyland Initiative, WI). Positive pressure tubes can be designed to deliver fresh air directly above the calf living area so that the air speed at calf level is not a draft. Having a good plan to remove “dirty” air from the barn is also important and plans may possibly include an open ridge vent with an elevated cover, chimneys, or exhaust fans. Whatever the methods used, there is no doubt that good ventilation is critical to preventing respiratory issues.
Helping With Optimal Air Flow. Historically, we tend to think of barn constructions having a 2 to 4-foot-tall concrete knee wall with a curtain above it. However, having these taller knee walls on a calf barn greatly interferes with natural ventilation when the curtains are open because the air ends up blowing over top of the calves, rather than providing a breeze through their resting area. Lower concrete walls that are 1 to 2-feet-high provide much better air flow to the calf when the curtains are open.
Sidewalls on recently constructed calf barns are typically 12-16 feet high including the knee wall. Installing a split curtain above the knee wall allows the most flexibility to capitalize on natural ventilation in varying weather conditions.
Drainage and Bedding Cannot Be Underestimated. Keeping pre-weaned calves clean, dry and comfortable is critical to their health. Solid concrete floors should be sloped to allow liquids to move away from the resting area. I see more barns with small grooves in the sloped surface, that seems effective in directing liquids to the drain, and minimizing the ammonia smell in the barn.
Some barns are designed with a gravel base for drainage underneath the pen bedding. This base is often 1-2 feet deep with a drain tile below it to direct liquids away to outside storage. One challenge with a gravel base is the potential for buildup of organic material in the gravel and the need to bring fresh gravel in often.
All calf bedding needs to be deep and dry, especially when the weather dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (the bottom end of a newborn calf’s thermoneutral zone). Calves with the ability to nest into deep bedding will require less energy to stay warm and can utilize that energy for growth instead. Another item that can help calves conserve energy in colder temperatures is a clean, dry calf jacket.
How Will the Work Flow. As plans are being drafted for a new barn, it is important to consider what machinery will need to navigate through the building to efficiently feed, bed and clean the facility. Keep in mind door heights, alley widths and corners to allow for feed wagons to navigate and skid loaders or tractors to clean. The more that can be done mechanically and easily, the happier the calf care team will be.
The milk room, or kitchen, will be the heart of activity at the facility. Items to be considered are more than just sinks and pasteurizers. Give thought to enough space for feed wagons to pull in to load or even drive straight through. Does the location of the milk room make sense if additional calf barns are built in the future? I encourage the full involvement of the calf care team, veterinarian, nutritionist and other farm consultants in developing the milk kitchen plan.
Happy to Help. Our Calf-Tel team has many years of experience with calf raising and have gathered many ideas to be considered before building a calf barn. Feel free to reach out to your region representative to brainstorm ideas, tour other farm facilities, draw sketches and make final adjustments. At Calf-Tel, the health and well-being of pre-weaned calves is our highest priority, while keeping in mind the efficiency and economics of farm business. That’s why our motto is Heart Meets Smart. Drop us an email or give a call to your region rep today.
Kelly Driver, MBA has been involved in the New York dairy industry all her life and is a Territory Manager for Calf-Tel, covering the Eastern US and Canada. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Here is a little tip that some producers use to help hold disbudding paste in place after it is applied. The paste is simply covered with a piece of duct tape to keep the calf from wiping it off or smearing it on other calves inadvertently. 😀👍🐄
Need to teach newborn calves to sleep inside their hutch? Limited space on your hutch pad? Here are two solutions that can help with that! We have seen producers slide fence panels right up against the front of the hutch to teach newborns to sleep inside on colder nights. 💤🐄
The next solution is the Calf-Tel Elite Direct Attach Hutch Access front (shown here in the last image) on the XXL 35|85 hutch. This can also help house calves where space is limited, or the environment is colder. 🥶
Farmers are so creative! This farm uses an EU standard parking disk mounted on their pen fronts to indicate how many liters of milk each calf should receive per feeding. 🤯 Talk about feeding the meter! 😄🍼🐄
Getting tired of going back and forth to the milk room for all those bottles? 😩 Check out this clever retrofit of a baby stroller to move lots of bottles at one time! You can also fit a second bottle rack on the front of the stroller for twice the bottle MOOving convenience! 🐄😀👍