Ensuring Calf Success in Winter Months



It is safe to say that we are now in the thick of winter and with that comes the challenge of keeping calves healthy and happy. Calves begin to experience cold stress as soon as the temperature dips below 10C. In order to maintain their body temperature, calves require extra energy to meet not only maintenance demands, but also for increased growth. If a calf is not getting the additional energy required, they will begin taking from their energy reserves resulting in weight loss, and impaired immune function causing sickness or in extreme cases, death.

According to the National Research Council (1), calves require approximately one extra litre of milk per day in 0-10C temperatures, and two extra litres in temperatures below 0C.

                                                                    Mapleview Agri Ltd.

                                       Suggested Feeding Rates Based on Temperature** (1)

  Summer - 130-150 g/L Winter - 150 g/L Winter - 150 g/L
  10 C + 10 C - 0 C <0 C
Age Litres/Day Feedings/Day Litres/Day Feedings/Day Litres/Day Feedings/Day
Day 1-3 4-6 L Colostrum - ASAP 4-6 L Colostrum - ASAP 4-6 L Colostrum - ASAP
Week 1 5-6 L 2 6 L 2 6-7 L 2-3
Week 2 6-7 L 2 7-8 L 2 7-9 L 2-3
Week 3-5 7-10 L 2 8-11 L 2 9-12 L 2-3
Week 6 6-8 L 2 7-9 L 2 8-10 L 2-3
Week 7 3-4 L 1 3-5 L 1 4-6 L 2
Week 8 2-3 L 1 2-4 L 1 3-4 L 1

**This chart is to be used as a guide only. Monitor all calves and take into considerations their size, condition, health and weight when deciding on appropriate feeding rates. Actual performance will vary.

 

      Adding a 3rd feeding is a great way to get more milk into calves. The additional feeding reduces the amount fed per feeding and the time between feedings. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an option on every farm as it requires extra labour and time. The other option is to increase the volume of milk fed morning and night. Remember that it is important to stay consistent; make a plan and stick to it! If you are feeding a milk replacer, please remember to adjust the amount of powder based on the litres of water so that the concentration of solids stays the same from one feeding to the next. 

     Using extra bedding is another simple, yet effective way to ensure that calves will stay warm and dry. It will also significantly decrease the amount of ammonia and bacterial load in the environment. The cost of straw is relatively cheap compared to the cost of treating sick calves. Ideally, a producer should be looking at a nesting score of 3, which means the calf’s legs are fully covered when lying down. Calf coats are another great way to keep calves warm. The best time to use them is during the first two to four weeks after the calf is born, if the temperature is 5C or lower.

     It is important that all calves are provided with adequate nutrition to maximize their growth potential for varying environmental conditions.   


(1) Calculations based on 2001 NRC Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle, Chapter 10