'Individual hutches are labour intensive but I believe they result in less disease'
Liquid milk supplier Michael McDonnell from Cannontown Farm, close to Termonfeckin in Co Louth, calves down close to 500 cows each year.
His herd of pedigree Holstein Friesians calve all year round, although the peak calving times are usually July and January to February.
"We are calving for about 10 months of the year," he says.
The Glanbia supplier rears all his heifer calves and sells the majority of the bulls calves at two weeks of age. The bulls are usually bought by a neighbouring farmer, who rears them to beef.
The bulls that Michael keeps to rear are selected based on their pedigree, EBI, and their dam's yield and protein figures. They are subsequently sold as breeding stock to pedigree herds across the country.
Cows due to calf down are moved into straw-bedded calving pens, according to their due dates. As soon as they are born, the calves are given colostrum by stomach tube.
The aim is to give each calf around 10pc of its bodyweight in colostrum so, for most calves, this is three to four litres. A second feed of the same amount, also by stomach tube, is given within the calf's first 12 hours of life.
Once the second feed has been given, the calf is moved by wheelbarrow from the calving pen and brought to one of 120 individual plastic calf hutches. The straw-bedded hutches are laid out in a 80m x 90m stone yard.