Dairy calves in the western United States are commonly raised individually in wooden hutches with a space allowance of 1.23 m2/calf. Recent legislative initiatives in California and across the United States were passed regarding concern over space allowance for farm animals. The objective of this study was to determine if rearing male Holstein calves in wooden hutches modified to increase space allowance would influence measures of performance, lying time per day, health, and respiratory immunocompetence. At 4 d of age, 60 calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 housing treatments: (1) conventional housing (CONV; 1.23 m2/calf), (2) 1.5 × CONV (MOD; 1.85 m2/calf), or (3) 3 × CONV (MAX; 3.71 m2/calf). Intakes of milk and solid feed were recorded daily and body weight was measured at 0, 3, 6, 10, and 12 wk of age. For the first 3 wk of the trial, calves were scored daily for fecal consistency, hydration, and hide cleanliness. In addition, calves were scored for respiratory health (i.e., nasal and eye discharge, ear position) until 7 wk of age. The total lying duration per day was recorded using data loggers at 3, 6, and 10 wk of age. Eight clinically healthy calves from each treatment were sensitized with subcutaneous ovalbumin (OVA) and then challenged with aerosolized OVA to assess calf respiratory immunity at 11 wk of age. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) was collected 4 d after the OVA challenge and analyzed for leukocyte differentials and OVA-specific IgG, IgG1, IgA, and IgE. Calf average daily gain and body weight were positively associated with space allowance at approximately 3 wk before weaning and throughout postweaning, respectively. A greater space allowance decreased lying time after 46 d. Space allowance did not influence fecal consistency, but there was a tendency for MAX calves to take 1 d longer to recover from loose feces than MOD calves. The MAX calves had the fewest (%) observations with feces on their body compared with CONV or MOD. At 3 wk of age, peripheral eosinophil concentrations decreased with increased space allowance. However, observations (%) of eye discharge increased with greater space allowance. Among calves challenged with OVA, MOD calves had the least BALF OVA-IgE, and the percent of BALF eosinophils decreased with increased space allowance. Increased space allowance for calves raised in wooden hutches may improve some measures of calf performance, health, and respiratory immunocompetence.
- Space allowance