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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Calves and heifers > Calf care for winter weather

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Calf care for winter weather

Karen Anderson

As cold weather approaches, dairy farmers begin to think about the additional work that winter weather brings and the vital importance of preparation. Don't let calf care take a back seat during the up and coming cold weather. Calves are the future of the dairy farm, and it is essential for future success to provide adequate and consistent care for each and every calf. Included in this article are several feeding and housing strategies to consider when raising pre-wean calves during this winter season. I used some additional insight about calf care and well-being from Drs. Noah Litherland (Dairy Youngstock Technical Specialist with Vita Plus) and Maurice Eastridge (Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist, The Ohio State University) when writing this article.

Look at each calf on an individual basis - what signs do you see that something is not quite right with that calf? Depending on age, calves experience cold stress at different temperatures. The critical temperature for newborn calves is 48°F versus 32°F for older calves. When cold stress takes effect on calves, there is an increase in the calf's energy requirement for maintenance. Cold stress causes calves to divert energy away from growth and immune function to fight the effects of being cold. Additional energy must be added to the ration as well as housing strategies must be used to help combat the effects of cold stress and as a result maintain a calf's desired growth rate of 1.5 pounds per day.

Feeding strategies for winter months include:

Additional housing strategies for proper calf care and well-being during winter months include:

Taking steps to maintain health, growth, and well-being of calves is essential for the future of our dairy operations. Utilize these feeding and housing strategies for fighting the effects of cold stress when raising pre-wean calves during this winter season.

October 2014

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