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Cold Weather Is On the Way!

Calf Standing in blue shelter in the winter. Featured image of blog post.

Cold weather and supportive care to the newborn calf.

Wow, how did we get to October already?  Seems like life is picking up speed every year as I get older so here we are again talking cold weather and supportive care to the newborn calf.

If we talk about the thermoneutral zone which refers to the temperature range of which the animal is most comfortable at, and no extra calories are needed for maintenance and growth.   We know that most newborn calves’ range in weight with a typical weight of 80-105 pounds at birth.   For calves less than a month old, their thermoneutral zone or most comfortable temps are between 55 and 70°F.  Cold stress occurs under 50°F, so how do we stop cold stress from happening if we do not have a controlled environment?  

A cold calf will need to use more calories or energy to try to maintain its own body temperature.  Energy that would normally be used for immune functions and/or growth is now used just to stay warm. Now we put those calves in a susceptible state for other events to happen or occur, i.e., disease pathogens.

Wet calves are more vulnerable to heat loss, so it takes more calories for that calf to stay warm.  A cold calf with a dry hair coat will have more insulation factor than those that are wet.
So, let’s start discussing ways to keep this calf comfortable in the winter months ahead of us:

  1. Get the calf to a dry warm environment asap after birth
  2. Get warm colostrum fed asap, best to feed calves above their body temperature for better absorption.
  3. Once hair coat is dry- fully dried (next to skin should be completely dried) put a CALF JACKET on the calf.
  4. Deep straw bedding for winter months is preferred or dry bedding so they can nestle in.   Deep knee test- if you kneel down in their bedding pack & your knee comes up wet, they need extra bedding.

My rule of thumb suggestion as to when to start putting calf jackets on is: WHEN YOU START WEARING HOODIES FOR A WEEK STRAIGHT, CALVES SHOULD HAVE JACKETS ON THEM.

Now what if we have some nice days, will you take calf jackets off or will they remain on? Again, my rule of thumb is keep calf jackets on calves for as long as you can.  If you need to take jackets off, do this when the calves are at least 2 weeks of age or older. Get them past the critical period which is any where between 14-21 days.   Remember to adjust straps on older animals as I have had calves with lesions on the back side of their legs due to straps rubbing on their flanks.

Beyond the comfort of calf jackets and bedding.  Monitor and check that your nutrition you feed your calves is adequate as well.  A big factor to growth is what we feed them.

Make sure you know what you are feeding your calves, whole milk or milk replacer, measure, monitor and track for consistency purposes.   Calf Star has our Milktaxi that can be used for pasteurizing whole milk or mixing powder / or / combination of the two: with our SMART PROGRAM- SMART MIX AND SMART IDENTIFICATION, we can monitor and track all aspects of the liquid diet.   

The other options is the Calf Expert (auto feeder) that also takes feeding your milk solution to another level.   Whatever management practice you feed your calves on your operation, Calf Star can be your added value Calf Equipment dealer.

-Minnie Ward


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