Dr. Ken Nordlund, University of Wisconsin-Madison – What’s All the Fuss About Positive Pressure Tubes in Calf Barns?

Posted on July 2, 2014 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
Article written by Macy Sarbacker
Positive pressure tube ventilation systems are becoming more and more common, according to Dr. Ken Nordlund with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. Tubes are primarily used to supplement natural ventilation in nursing calf barns.

“Unlike most ventilation systems, tube systems can be used to put air exactly where you need it,” Nordlund explained.

In a 2006 field study, it was found that respiratory disease in calves could be reduced when producers lowered the airborne bacterial counts in their pens. Solid panels between calves typically were associated with higher bacterial counts, but lower respiratory diseases in those calves. This study created the urgency and need to develop a new generation of positive pressure tubes to push fresh air between these panels.

But we don’t have respiratory disease… Why do we need to look at our ventilation?

Nordlund said respiratory disease if often overlooked because “appetite” is used as an indicator of health. Dr. Sheila McGuirk, UW-Madison, developed a clinical calf scoring system that increases the effectiveness of diagnosing of respiratory disease. But Nordlund said even this system underestimates respiratory disease.

Why should you consider adding a positive pressure tube to your facility?

The most important growth period for calves is the first 60 days of their lives. In this stage, calves are particularity prone to respiratory disease. The growth during this time period has an impact on their future milk yield. Additionally, it has been proven that calf barns with high-quality supplemental tube systems are achieving equivalent health results as compared to calf hutches.

Tubes “continue to drive fresh air in, even when natural ventilation fails,” Nordlund explained.

It’s important to remember that the tubes used today are not the tubes of the 1980s. This new positive pressure tube system is made of the same material, but is a totally new design and backed by new, affirmative results. Nordlund said another important point to remember is that the positive pressure tube system is supplemental to natural ventilation – not just a recirculation of air.

Nordlund concluded that positive pressure tube systems complement natural ventilation at a low cost and with minimal energy use.  Additionally, positive pressure tube systems require professional design for proper function, so you do not have to spend time installing this system yourself. Finally, and most importantly, calf facilities that have used the positive pressure tube systems have seen substantial reductions in calf respiratory disease.

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Category: Facility design
Starting Strong - Calf Care