Youngstock housing – Design questions to consider

Taking the time to understand your needs in the planning process of your youngstock housing will help make sure that the design chosen is right for your system. To help work through the design process, consider the eight questions below.

Design questions to consider for youngstock housing

1. What will be the expected maximum number of calves on milk at any one time?

  • Check your calving records
  • Include a two-week post-weaning period
  • Consider the need for empty pens for effective cleaning
  • Allow for flexibility in the event that movements are restricted (e.g. adverse weather or tuberculosis restrictions)

2. What are your future plans for the business?

  • Is this a stop-gap or a 10-year investment?
  • Will your cow numbers increase?
  • Might the system need to adapt, e.g. to different calving systems?

3. What is the preferred feeding system?

  • Is this individual buckets, trough feeders, automatic calf feeder etc.?

4. What is the likely pen size?

  • Your pen size should fit your preferred feeding system and be dictated by your calf group size

5. What options do you have for pen layouts?


  • Space for some individual pens
  • Group pens: number required so that effective cleaning is possible
  • Isolation pen
  • Central or side passage
  • Feed preparation and wash area
  • Storage requirements for milk powder, concentrates, forage, bedding
  • Location of water and power sources

6. How will your pens be cleaned out?

Think about:

  • Layout of the pens should dictate direction of floor slopes in each pen
  • Floor slope dictates where drainage channels are required
  • Equipment available for mucking out needs space for access
  • Washing out: access to water

7. What is the optimum location of the new building?

Consider the following questions:

  • How will calves be transported to the building?
  • Where will the calves come from?
  • From which direction will milk, bagged feed and straw arrive?
  • What will provide ease of access for people?
  • Where are the biggest risks to calf health?
  • What will be the expected impact of the climate?

8. What are the wall cladding specifications and options?

  • Are there specific restrictions to wind-driven airflow through the site? Is your site particularly exposed to the weather?

Once the size and orientation of the new calf house are brought into focus, the remainder of the design details can be decided. Choices are required for materials used internally and externally for pens and equipment. Details such as pen gates, divisions, feeders and racks, water drinkers, mechanical ventilation systems, and lighting are all critical.

Read more about youngstock housing

Legislation and market requirements

Temperature, humidity and ventilation

Housing layout and construction

Designing housing to feed calves with ease

Housing systems

System cost comparison

Case studies

Cobblers Farm

Eldon Farm

Holly Green Farm

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Youngstock housing