Fast Fact: What Is the Ideal Height for Calf Pails? – Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus

Posted on June 20, 2017 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus calf products coordinator

Question:  What is the ideal height for calf pails?

Quick answer:  Calf eating behavior indicates 24 to 27 inches is a good range for pail height.

A bit more:  Placing calf buckets at the correct height is vital for starter intake.  The optimum height depends on the size of your calves as well as the style and type of pail you use.

Use this formula to measure pail height:

(Distance from top of the pail to the ground) + (the height of the pail itself)

Observations of calf eating behavior indicates 24 to 27 inches is a good range for pail height.

In some cases, we placed dog dishes in the calf pails for the first few weeks.  This changed the pail height to 17.5 inches (because the height of the dog dish is much shorter than the height of the pail), which makes finding and reaching the starter easier, especially for small calves.

Placing the pails inside panels often makes feed and water more accessible to the calf.  However, this also increases the likelihood of manure or urine getting into the pails, so they must be cleaned more often.

Here are some questions to ask when choosing pail height:

  • Can calves easily and comfortably reach the bottom of the pail?
  • Do neck barriers constrain the calf from reaching all the way to the bottom of the pail?
  • Do the pails slope forward or backward?  Pails can often take a beating from equipment and may get bent at odd angles, which can drastically change feed accessibility.
  • Can the calves comfortably stand and still reach the pails?  Be sure to account for the bedding if it accumulates in the feeding areas.

Category: Cow comfort
Starting Strong - Calf Care