What is OptiHouse?
Optihouse is a large scale calf housing project which is currently being carried out on dairy farms across Northern Ireland by the Dairy Youngstock research team at AFBI Hillsborough in collaboration with CAFRE Dairy Advisors.
The project aims to provide a better understanding of calf rearing houses within Northern Ireland and the key factors linked to sub optimal environmental conditions within rearing accommodation as these can have a significant impact on calf health and performance.
Another main objective is the development of blueprints for new modern calf rearing housing and fixes for existing common calf house designs that would maximise delivery on both calf and producers considerations. Calf considerations include air quality, social interactions, growth performance, and space allowance.
Producer considerations include, labour efficiency and flexibility, scalability, cost to build and run, integration within the farmyard and degree of mechanisation. The range of blueprints would be developed to suit the climatic and production system variations within Northern Ireland. In addition to the on-farm work, a series of controlled studies will be carried out to determine the impacts and interactions between level/type of calf nutrition, bedding, calf grouping and environmental conditions.
This knowledge will help inform best practice and refine calf rationing systems to better reflect performance under a range of environmental conditions.
As part of the Optihouse project, a calf rearing event for farmers involved in recent calf research was held at AFBI Hillsborough on 21st August 2019.
Invited speakers addressed topics such as early life health, housing and hygiene and management plans to enhance the health and performance of dairy youngstock.
These presentations can be viewed HERE
Additionally, a series of “How To” calf management videos were produced by Jamie Robertson (Livestock Management Systems). These videos can be seen HERE.
*Notes: The Optihouse project is funded by DAERA with additional funding from AgriSearch.