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Dan’s 50-year-old dairy heifer shed houses calves from weaning to 12 months old. Although the shed initially performed well, the farm began to see more frequent cases of respiratory disease following an expansion in herd size.

“When our heifer shed was built 50 years ago, it did a fantastic job, but we started having problems with TB and other respiratory diseases about five years ago” – Dan Watson

The traditional brick insulation does a good job to keep the calves warm in winter, however due to it being quite an enclosed space, ventilation levels were insufficient for the increased stocking density within the shed. Dan found that pneumonia was becoming a persistent problem and recounts one of the worse events he had recently:

“In 2021, we put 27 of our dairy replacement calves in the shed. Sadly two died, and every single one got a temperature of over 40 degrees, so all had to be treated with antibiotics, which was a major financial cost”

“A consultant advised us to knock the shed down and start again – but this wasn’t feasible due to the cost”.

Following this, Dan had a visit from an AHDB advisor who recommended he install a positive pressure tube system. The VentTube Fresh was installed in 2022 to bring fresh air into the shed, and push out stale dirty air.

“After we had installed the ventilation system, we decided not to vaccinate and only had two calves develop pneumonia, both of which successfully recovered with treatment.

“This year we’ve vaccinated all our calves and increased the stocking density within the shed; so far we have not had a single case of pneumonia, which has been a big relief,” says Dan.

“The calves in the ventilated shed are now our best growing animals as they haven’t had the knockback of respiratory disease, which I’m sure means they will be healthy and productive animals for years to come.

“Although we were cynical at first, it’s changed this shed from having to be pulled down to producing our best animals.”

We have also produced a video giving more detail about this case study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYPJ_q2WA_E  

 

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