Paired housing of dairy calves: Current best practices and tips for success


  • Whitney Knauer Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108


pair housing, social housing, dairy calf


Pair housing is a social housing strategy that improves indi­vidual dairy calf welfare and can be easily implemented into a pre-weaned calf rearing program. The current body of litera­ture suggests that pair-housed calves have improved growth, social skills, and learning ability as compared to calves housed individually, which becomes particularly important around the time of weaning. For successful implementation of pair housing, veterinarians should first review calf records with their producers to ensure calf management teams are achiev­ing benchmarks for good-to-excellent calf health and growth. Calves should be paired in the first 3 weeks of life to optimize starter and growth benefits. Pairs can be formed in either hutches or pens in a barn, and each calf should have at least 35ft2 of resting space with one starter and water bucket avail­able per calf. Cross sucking can be mitigated through the use of bottles or teat buckets or separating calves at feeding time. While there is still more to be learned about calf health and management of pair housing systems, veterinarians can utilize these strategies to help producers implement this social hous­ing strategy.






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