Dairy Calves Vulnerable to Cold Stress

November 10, 2011 07:49 AM

Before Old Man Winter rears his ugly head, dairy producers should take time to plan ahead for feeding and housing calves during cold weather, a time when they are extremely vulnerable to cold stress.

There are two areas on which to focus for minimizing cold stress during cold weather months: 1) implement a feeding program that supports increased energy demands, and 2) protect calves from energy-draining, cold temperatures.
Newborn and young calves are particularly susceptible to cold stress, even at fairly moderate temperatures, making it necessary to be prepared for the sudden onset of colder temperatures. Cold stress in calves is caused by environmental factors including lower environmental temperatures and wind chill factors.
At temperatures below 60° F, calves must increase their energy consumption, just to maintain their core body temperature. By implementing a cold weather feeding program that meets these increased energy requirements, producers can keep their calves healthy and growing.
During cold temperatures, reducing environmental stress factors and meeting higher energy demands with milk or quality milk replacer can be all the difference when it comes to growth potential, says Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services at Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products
Energy reserves used to maintain and regulate body temperature are extremely
limited in the young calf, therefore during cold stress, energy for growth and developing immune function becomes short or nonexistent. Producers should take a close look at calf milk replacers going into the colder weather months, continues Earleywine.
Calves need a great deal of energy to thrive and grow in cold weather. The main sources of energy in milk replacer are lactose and fat, and both are needed by the calf. Adequate levels of milk replacer dry matter should be fed to provide lactose for immediate energy and fat to
build a reserve for the calf. 
Additionally, Earleywine suggests producers not currently feeding a third
feeding of milk replacer consider the benefits of adding an additional helping, especially during cold weather. Incorporating a third feeding of milk replacer, preferably late in the evening, provides extra energy for young calves. Calves fed three times a day show improved growth, better starter prior to weaning than calves fed twice daily.
Producers should provide housing that allows a space for calves to have fresh air yet protects them from drafts. Bedding should be clean, dry and deep enough to completely hide a calf’s legs when they’re lying down. Proper insulation will help calves stay warm without relying on energy reserves to regulate body temperature. Calf blankets can also be used to help keep them warm.
Earleywine offers these additional tips for keeping calves healthy and growing during cold weather months:
?       • Always offer free choice water.
        •?Provide warm water with morning and afternoon feedings, and consider adding a third watering as well. By feeding liquids at closer to the calf’s body temperature of 102 degrees F, you can reduce the additional drain on its energy reserve to warm it.
        •?Keep water & grain buckets clean.
        •?If scours hit, primary treatment should be geared toward restoring water balance by feeding electrolytes in a separate feeding at body temperature. Continue feeding calves normal milk replacer levels for energy for maintenance and growth.
        •?Feed calves a full potential ration; calves fed a maintenance? diet (less than 1.8 lb. milk replacer daily) are more likely to fall behind on weight gain and become sick.
Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products Company recently announced the release of Cow’s Match® ColdFront?calf milk replacer, a new, uniquely formulated calf milk replacer that helps provide an optimal balance of fat and carbohydrates. The key ingredients of Cow’s Match® ColdFront calf milk replacer provide higher and more quickly mobilized energy sources to dairy calves, helping them better overcome challenges associated with cooler weather and environmental conditions. For more information on Cow’s Match® ColdFront? calf milk replacer go to: http://on.fb.me/siY0te

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