Calves can maintain body temperature within a certain range of temperatures called the thermoneutral zone without the need for additional energy. When temperatures drop below the critical low temperature (lower of 10°C), calves must use stored body energy to support essential body functions and maintain their body temperature.
1- GIVE NEWBORNS CALVES A QUICK WARM-UP
- Turn on the heat - use a calf warmer or room warmer.
- Deep, dry bedding - Provide enough bedding that one cannot see the calf's feet and legs when the calves are sleeping.
- Calf Blankets - Clean and dry calf blankets provide an extra layer of protection for calves.
2- CONSIDER ADDING ANOTHER MEAL
The most critical and most expensive period of calf growth in raising dairy calves is the pre-weaning period. During this period calves are highly susceptible to cold stress. To support calf health:
- Add a feeding or a third meal.
- Increase the volume fed by a third.
- Increase the total solids fed
3- DON’T FORGET THE WARM WATER!
Another key to feeding calves in cold weather is to provide all liquids at 38°c target temperature for consumption. Always offer calves clean, fresh water in addition to milk or milk replacer. With regard to free-choice water, this means offering warm water several times per day in cold weather.
4- STEP UP THE STARTER
The sooner calves start eating grain, the more benefit they will get in terms of generating heat. Anything we can do to encourage starter consumption will have a positive effect on calves’ ability to withstand cold temperatures. Offer small amounts of starter during the first week of life and be sure to have water available to all calves because drinking water stimulates starter intake.
5- WHEN TO WEAN?
Cold stress can result in calves turning to stored body fat to generate body heat, essentially losing weight. In addition, calves experiencing cold stress will have compromised immune systems making them more susceptible to disease. Weaning calves during extreme cold conditions provides added stress to the animal and consideration should be given to delaying weaning until temperatures are less extreme.