Days like today make me extra glad that we decided to invest in improvements to our calf and heifer housing.
Below is an example of what our calf housing would have looked like on a day like today before we made the improvements. This picture was taken in February of 2011, which was the last time we had a snowstorm comparable to the one that buried us today.
This is what our baby calf housing looks like now. Newborns go from the calf warmer into a small pen for a couple days and then into the big pen with the automatic calf feeder.
We continue to be amazed by how well our calves grow with their new amenities – access to fresh water 24 hours a day (no frozen water pails); access to calf starter 24 hours a day; automatically dispensed milk replacer; a temperature-controlled, weather-proof environment; and interaction with the other calves.
And while this system is better for our calves, it is also better for us.
Our animals' well-being often takes precedence over our own. Caring for our calves and heifers used to require a sometimes unbelievable amount of physical labor, especially during the winter. The winter of 2010-11 was grueling, to say the least. (We were kind of spoiled last winter.)
With our baby calves inside now and better facilities for the older heifers outside, our workload has greatly decreased and our working conditions have greatly improved.
Our calf and heifer housing improvements weren't the types of projects that have a proven track record for providing a financial return on the investment. But, sometimes, more than just finances have to be taken into consideration; time, labor, and quality of life (for both our animals and us) are important, too. I bet, though, that if we put a price tag on just the time and labor we're saving, the improvements we made will pay for themselves pretty quickly.
A year-and-a-half later, we're still glad we made the decision we did. And so are Dan and Monika.
Housing our calves inside makes it a lot easier for Dan, and especially, Monika, to play with the calves. Which, in turn, makes it a lot easier to tame future show calves. This is one benefit of our calf housing that we never anticipated, but, boy, are we glad to count it as one of the reasons this system is better for all of us.