Over 40 Years of Experience

Today’s Calves Are Tomorrow’s Profits.

The PolyDome Story

Dick Johanneck started Polytank, Inc. in 1972 doing custom rotomoulding. In 1977, he began making calf hutches which became known as Poly Dome Calf Nurseries. The agricultural products division of Polytank was later named PolyDome. Since that time, Polytank and PolyDome have added over 200 products to their line. Polytank has dealers scattered across the United States, Canada, and 10 foreign countries.

The rotomoulding process uses hollow metal moulds and powdered polyethylene plastic that become liquid under high heat. The moulds with the liquid plastic inside are spun on both vertical and horizontal axis to form a uniform thickness, or skin on the outside walls, thus the name rotomoulding. The mould is removed from heat and allowed to cool under controlled conditions to avoid shrinkage or warpage. The resulting polyethylene plastic product is resistant to impact, most corrosive chemicals and temperature extremes. The slippery surface makes it very easy to clean. Polyethylene is also environmentally friendly because it can be recycled.

Most PolyDome products are one piece with no seams or sharp edges. The light weight of polyethylene makes even large units easy to lift and move.

PolyDome has their own metal fabricating shop for frames, stands, and supports used with their agricultural products. All metal parts are powdercoated for corrosion resistance.


PolyDome products are PolyDome provides a 10-Year Prorated Warranty on all Animal Shelters and Bulk Bins.

The kind of hutch you choose is just one factor contributing to raising healthy calves, says researcher


Performance tests rate polysquare as top pick for raising calves
Reprinted from the “Ontario Milk Producer”
July, 1999


Polysquare hutches are being recommended by a University of Guelph researcher as the best hutch housing for dairy calves after performance tests conducted at Kemptville College.

Most dairy farmers begin using individual dairy calf hutches to prevent disease. Other benefits include durability, easier sanitation, and improved welfare and overall health of the calves.

During the two-year trial, Dennis McKnights compared four different kinds of hutches:

  • Polysquare hutches, made of thermomoulded opaque polymer with ridge-top and side-adjustable ventilation.
  • University of Virginia hutches, with latticed front and sloped metal roof.
  • Traditional wooden huntches;
  • Polyethylene domes

McKnight evaluated the structures on the basis of cost, durability, portability, ease of sanitation and calf performance. The polysquare ranked first in each category except calf performance and cost. Calves housed in the polysquare hutches grew nearly as well as calves housed in University of Virginia hutches and better than calves in traditional wooden hutches and polyethylene domes.

At about $400 each, polysquares are more expensive that either the wooden or University of Virginia hutches but comparable to the polyethylene domes, already used on many Ontario farms. Although the wooden and University of Virginia hutches are less expensive, they’re also less durable and need replacing sooner than either squares or domes notes McKnight.

As well, polysquares and polydomes are easiest to clean. This may help prevent illness when a new calf moves into one.

The research results also suggest air quality improves calf performance. Hutches with good ventilation, like the polysquares, were superior to those with poor air circulation, such as the polydomes. The domes became excessively hot during the summer and fall, and calves had to be allowed outside to cool off. However, the polysquare hutches had built-in vents and superior air exchange.

McKnight’s study involved 160 calves in tests conducted twice in every season over a two-year period. He had expected different hutches would perform better in either cold or warm weather, but this was not the case. The polysquare and University of Virginia hutches were superior in calf performance over other choices in every season.

Based on the overall results, and especially on dura-bility, ease of sanitation and portability, McKnight recom-mends polysquare hutches over all others. However, McKnight stresses, hutch choice is no guarantee of good calf performance. There are other important factors to consider.

“Regardless of what is chosen, proper management and maintenance of the calf is important,” he says. “Hutch type is only a piece of the puzzle. It seems to offer a beneficial environment for calf health by keeping it clean and dry.”

Jen Sedmihradsky is a student writer in the Office of Research, University of Guelph. Research reported in this article is sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.


Sticking To The Basics: It’s All In The Details

Reprinted from the “The Western Dairyman”
By Alice Hansen


If you’re trying to uncover the trick to raising dairy calves with a less than 1% death loss, you might be surprised to hear what Barb and Bruce Ashenbrenner have to say.

They haven’t relied on any tricks to achieve that enviable statistic at their Western Oregon calf-raising operation. They’ve simply followed the simple, basic rules of raising calves. consistently.

And it’s paid off for them. Three years and 1,600 calves after they began raising Holstein heifer calves on contract for nearby Van Beek Dairy, Barb — the head calf raiser — has lost only 15 calves. For her, sticking to a carefully thought-out routine for feeding, health and maintenance has produced these outstanding results.

“If you don’t do things routinely, they don’t get done.” Bruce says.

The routine begins even before the Ashenbrenners bring the calves the short distance from Van Beck Dairy to their home. When they see a newborn, employees at the dairy dip its navel, tag it, treat it with CalfGuard and give it one feeding of LifeLine, a natural product derived from bovine blood that is a highly concentrated source of immunoglobulins. The goal is to get the mixture into the calf as soon as possible when stomach absorption is at its peak. The longer the wait, the lower the absorption capacity.

“This is so basic, but so important, to get the calf through the first 7 – 14 days,” Bruce said. “Everything we’re trying to do right can be lost if the calf is not cared for in those critical first hours.”

It’s important for a calf-raiser to establish a good relationship with a dairy, so win-win programs like early feeding can be created, the Ashenbrenners say. And they point out they are fortunate to work with a progressive dairy family like the Van Beeks.

The Ashenbrenners pick up calves and milk from transition cows once a day. Before the calves get in the van to head for the calf facility, Barb gives them a selenium shot. Once again, sticking with a routine ensures nothing is missed. She pumps the transition milk into a barrel, then into another barrel once she’s at home. In the summer, it’s stored in a cooler.

New calves stay in a well-ventilated barn for three to seven days so the Ashenbrenners can make sure they’re drinking from bottles before they’re moved into PolyDome plastic huts outdoors. The first night they arrive, they check and re-dip the calves’ navels and give them a half-bottle of LifeLine mixed with a half-bottle of milk replacer. That first night, “we’re not afraid to tube if they don’t drink,” Barb says. She keeps close tabs and accurate records on the new arrivals. Once a group is drinking and ready to be moved, they clean and treat the barn with lime.

Calves stay on milk replacer for 30 days. Firm believers in consistency, the Ashenbrenners don’t feed transition milk to calves less than one month old, since its nutrient content can vary. Once the calves have a good start, they feel they’ll handle the varied milk better. The Ashenbrenners don’t feed milk from treated cows at all, since they want to build natural bacteria flora in the calves’ stomach as much as possible.

The milk replacer used by the Ashenbrenners is American Protein’s 20/20 all-milk nonmedicated with plasma, and APC Choice 20/20 non medicated red blood cell with plasma.

They mix milk replacer with water of a consistent temperature. Instead of measuring the powder with a cup they weigh it out — again for better consistency. “You get a more accurate measurement with a scale than you do with a cup.” Says Barb. To mix it more thoroughly they took the extra step of buying a wire whisk like those used in commercial kitchens. Their reasoning: It’s a cheap investment that calves milk will benefit from.

“The simple things make all the difference,” says Bruce.

Barb and children, Shiann, 11, and Stuart, 9, feed the 75 – 95 calves on milk. They keep calves on bottles for three reasons: The plastic huts (which they’ve found work well in Western Oregon’s coastal climate) are set up for bottle feeling; it’s easy to control cleanliness; and it’s easy to spot calves that aren’t drinking when they are fed with bottles. They’ve even found that calves feeling under-the-weather will suckle a bottle before drinking from a bucket.

Immediately after each feeding, Barb, Shiann and Stuart clean and disinfect all feeding equipment. They scrub the bottles with soap, bleach and hot water.

Calves on milk get as much water as they can drink and plenty of grain. For the Ashenbrenners, no calf is too young to be offered water and feeding it helps ward off dehydration.

“We are big believers in feeding water.” Barb said. “It is amazing how much water those baby calves will consume. We also know that with water available, grain consumption increases.

When calves are weaned at 45 days they are eating 6 – 8 pounds of 16% protein grain containing a coccidiostat, and are introduced to alfalfa hay at that time. When they are 75 – 110 days old they’re ready to go back to the dairy.

On weekends when Bruce is home from his full-time job, they move the calves and take care of other chores like dehorning, which they do with a portable butane dehorner. They may also move the plastic huts to fresh ground and prepare them for the calves. They hire extra help so they can take a break from feeding now and then, which they find helps them notice details they may have overlooked in the routine. They encourage their hired help to do a thorough job rather than a quick job.

As a rule, through, they’re on the lookout for sick calves all the time — especially during feeding. It’s essential for Barb to keep an eye on the calf huts on the hillside below the house, and she treats sick calves mid-day if needed.

The Ashenbrenners avoid treating scouring calves with antibiotics unless a sickness progresses into pneumonia. They treat pneumonia with Naxcel and use penicillin only sparingly. They also focus on keeping sick calves hydrated by feeding bottles of electrolytes between feedings, and tubing fluids to the calf if necessary.

“I really like the calves,” says Barb, who’s glad to have a job that enables her to work from with her children. “I’d rather do this that anything.”


We have used PolyDome Hutches at the Cargill Research Farm for approximately two years and have been very happy with the results. When managed properly, such as allowing for proper drainage, we have found there is a low incidence of health problems. Scouring and death loss has been minimal.
W. Michael CraigDairy Research Nutritionist, Cargill Research Farm
Calves raised in PolyDomes gained weight more rapidly than calves in wooden hutches. Also, calves in PolyDomes were observed to be more active and social than calves in wooden hutches... temperature was 15-20 degrees F warmer in Poly Domes.
Dennis G. JohnsonDairy Scientist, University of Minnesota
Before switching to PolyDomes we were raising calves in crates, causing insurmountable problems. With PolyDomes we now medicate very few calves. Our veterinarian has endorsed our program completely. The performance is well beyond our expectations.
Mary MeyerGregerson Dairy

© 1998, PolyDome/PolyTank

62824 250th Street

Litchfield, MN 55355

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