Winter typically presents a challenge for calf rearers as environmental conditions heighten the chances of pneumonia in youngstock.
At Canon Winder Farm in Cumbria, Jonathan Philipson milks 200 dairy cows and rears all calves, including replacement heifers, beef and bull calves.
In the past, pneumonia has been a big challenge for Jonathan every winter, typically once calves were weaned.
“The shed which I moved calves to at weaning was designed for older stock and wasn’t fit for purpose. Every winter I was seeing roughly two new cases of pneumonia each week, which was expensive to treat and was having an ongoing impact on growth rates.”
The winter of 2019-2020 was particularly severe, with frequent pneumonia cases and deaths. For Jonathan, it was the catalyst to make a change and he decided to install a VentTube Fresh system to improve the environment of the calf shed.
Design and installation
The Galebreaker team designed the bespoke ventilation system, tailoring it to the shed dimensions and number of calves typically housed within the airspace and Jonathan was able to install it himself. The shed houses 40 to 50 calves when full, split into three pens.
“The installation process was very straightforward. We were able to get 80% of calves out of the shed, and the instructions for fitting the system were simple.”
Impact of mechanical ventilation
The VentTube Fresh system brings in fresh air from outside and delivers it at calf height. Warm air is then pushed back out of the building preventing recirculation within the shed.
After fitting the system, Jonathan noticed a difference inside the shed.
“There was no longer any stale air or lingering smell of ammonia, the shed has felt fresh since the system was installed.”
Smoke bomb tests carried out by Jonathan’s vet after the installation of the ventilation system confirmed that the air was now able to clear quickly, without any static patches or recirculation occurring.
Jonathan has increased the number of calves passing through the shed and has moved to a higher stocking density since installing the VentTube Fresh system in October 2020. Of the 180 calves which have gone through the shed since the system has been installed, only five have had pneumonia which was a considerable difference from two per week.
He also reports an increase in calf performance.
“The calves are eating more and achieving consistent growth rates without getting the setback which comes with pneumonia. I’d say it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made.”