cow signals

Pamper Pen and Cuddle Box
Use the power of nature: stress-free calving for cow, calf and farmer

For:                  All persons worldwide involved in keeping dairy cows.

Autors:            Joep Driessen, DVM,  CowSignals Training Company & Vetvice, the Netherlands,

                        Jan Hulsen, DVM, CowSignals author & Vetvice, the Netherlands,

Wiebe Veenstra, Vetvice Barn Design (detailed drawing).






Nothing is stronger than nature. You can use ‘the power of nature’  for giving cows and calves a good start. It starts with a stress-free calving line (see blogpost Joep Driessen). Also, we advise you to use a Cuddle Box and a Pamper Pen.


A Pamper Pen is a pen next to the close-up dry cows group where you can give the calving cow and the cow that has just calved excellent comfort and excellent Tender Loving Care. The Pamper Pen contains a swing gate, where one person can fixate the cow in one minute. This provides an efficient and safe working place, to check, to handle and to treat any cow. Including a very shy heifer.

 A Cuddle Box is a half-open box at the side of the Pamper Pen, where the cow can lick her calf dry.


With these you can do a few more small things that make a big difference. We explain this in this winning protocol.




Milking on the spot, while the cow is licking her baby. Photo by Jan Hulsen


500 cow dairy, with 100 m2 straw yard. Pamper pen is in use for 4 years now. The manager says: “I have no more sick cows”





Two variations of a pamper pen (for the cow) with a cuddle box (for the calf).

Design by Vetvice Barn Design. Interested: send an e-mail to:



Winning protocol for Calving and newborn baby calf care
Start by letting your heifers come to the dry cow group two months before calving, so they can adapt and come in contact with all bacteria’s for optimal colostrum quality. If you have a first lactation group, you keep heifers also separate from the older cows before calving. They need plenty exercise room for walking around, inside and/or outside in a walking yard. Make sure that in the last ten days before calving you have little or no group changes.




Mother is licking her wet calf. Photo by Joep Driessen



Calving in the group. Calving is a high risk moment. Photo by Joep Driessen




Let the cow give birth quietly in or next to the group. Move the calf immediately after it is born into the Cuddle Box: a nice bed of good quality hay (or silage) just outside the calving pen. Here the mother can lick her calf dry. Put a half open box around the calf so it can not walk away and to protect it from cold winds.

Give 20 litres of luke warm water to the mother, to re-hydrate her and to stimulate feed intake.

The cow will easily go to her calf. Now you can move the swing gate against the mother and lock her in with a chain, to work safe under the udder. Milk the cow out completely, on the spot while she is licking her calf.

The combination of calving pen, swing gate with treatment facilities and Cuddle box is called: Pamper Pen.



Feed immediately at least two liter liters of fresh & warm colostrum to the calf, straight form the mother. The more colostrum the baby calf takes in now, the better! Store the rest of the colostrum in the fridge after putting the number of the calf on it, to feed it to the same calf 6 to 12 hours later.









Number the calf and register her. Move the calf to an individual pen after she is dry, this will be after one hour or so. When the calf is gone, the cow will start looking around. She will start sniffling for her baby and will end up eating the hay or silage where the calf was lying.


Move the calf. Mother is watching.




Move the calf. Mother is watching.



Best practices from our protocol

o   Use a stress-free calving line.

o   Use a Pamper Pen for comfort and save handling of the cow and a Cuddle Box for hygiene and comfort of the calf.

o   Give the cow 20 liters of luke warm water immediately after she has calved.

o   Milk out the cow completely in the Pamper Pen.

o   Feed immediately at least two liters of fresh and warm colostrum to the calf, straight from the mother. The more colostrum the baby calf takes in now, the better.


DISCUSSION: How long should the cow and calf stay together?
3 seconds, 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years? For small herds (family herd, less than 50 cows) some farmers leave calves always in the dairy herd. Most farmers separate the wet baby direct from the mother, without much contact. Danish law requires twelve hours of contact between mother and baby.

Research shows that cows experienced the least parting stress when the calf is taken away immediately. We advise one to two hours of contact. Twelve hours, as required in Denmark, likely has more disadvantages then advantages. The cow will not eat quick enough after calving, resulting to more ketosis and other diseases.



The benefits of having a Cuddle Box and a Pamper Pen
In the Pamper Pen the cow or heifer has a personal high comfort area, where she can easily be fixated by one person in one minute. And where she can be easily and safely milked and treated, when she is licking her calf or eating.


Specific advantages of the Pamper Pen are:

1.     low stress system for cow, calf and farmer: simple and safe

2.     easy and safe to milk the cow and get the colostrum at the ideal moment: as quickly as possible after calving

3.     easy to milk the colostrum as the cow has little or no stress, and milk let-down is stimulated by her licking the calf

4.     it is very simple to give the calf the best colostrum there is: fresh and still warm, from her own mother, immediately after calving

5.     the cow is very easy to handle immediately after calving, when she is licking her calf

6.     the cow is stimulated immediately after calving, to lick her calf, to drink and to eat. The smell of amnionic fluid on the feed stimulates her to eat. And eating is the best recipe to prevent problems after calving.

7.     drinking immediately after calving stimulates feed intake. Who is not thirsty after giving birth? Who is not thirsty after being milked?


Specific advantages of the Cuddle Box are:

1.     it is easy to bring the calf in a safe and hygienic place, immediately after it is born

2.     the calf can be licked and thus will be stimulated by the own mother

3.     the farmer can safely and easily give the calf the best colostrum there is: at least 2 liters straight from the own mother immediately after birth

4.     immediately after birth the calf suckles and drinks best

5.     the farmer can let the calf stay in the Cuddle Box as long as he or she wants, because the calf is safe and comfortable.



Some creative examples from our customers:



Photo: Hein de Kort

If you do this make sure to clean the box after every calf



Photo: Edward Atkin, he will be making a Cuddle Box soon




Photo: Jake Vermeer,

Excellent example! In cold climates you need draught protection



Photo: Rens Mulder, testing right now. Improvement point is sight for farmer and cow. Also, make sure your calf can´t get caught in the fence!




In conclusion
There are many ways to skin a cat. But we think that our Cuddle Box and Pamper Pen design will boost your income and working pleasure a lot. Just try it!


If you have any good photos, movies or stories to share, please send them to Also feedback is welcome.


Kind regards,


On behalf of the CowSignals Team,

Joep Driessen,

Co-founder of CowSignals Training Company.

Learn more!
o   Sign up for the video learning YoungStock Signals

o   Sign up for live day training YoungStock Signals in CowSignals à-la-carte program

o   Read the book YoungStock Signals

o   Ask the Vetvice Barn Design team for help

o   Follow us on social media:  @cowsignals            

o   Watch one of the following videos:

 find out more at



Animation                       Cuddle Box in Taiwan                      Feed on calf   

  by Arjan van Genugten
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