Many types of cattle have a high cold temperature tolerance, due to many different factors. Higher consistent body temperature, thicker layers of skin, layers of hair, amount of body fat etc. But when it comes to a calf their cold temperature tolerance is many times much lower.
Calves less than 3 weeks of age are, like many of us humans including myself, are most comfortable between 59-75 degrees fahrenheit. Knowing this, if you are cold out there in winter conditions, odds are that calf is also. There are a few ways that you can battle this on behalf of the calf.
The Best of the Best
The first step we can take with a newborn calf is to feed them the highest quality colostrum that we have. As well as make sure it is at a warm temperature as close to the temperature of milk that would come out of it’s mother, which would be close to 101 degrees fahrenheit. When milk is cooler than this temperature, a calf’s body has to expend energy to warm that milk up to body temperature.
More May Be Better
When temperatures drop below 59 degrees fahrenheit, a calf will begin to expend energy to keep their body warm. This means if you do not offer calves more feed (energy), the feed calves are given, will be used to keep warm instead of for growing or protecting against disease. Calves not given enough feed in cold weather will not grow and may even go backward and lose weight.
So options to prevent problems like this are to feed more milk or milk replacer to calves per feeding, approximately 10% more milk per 40 degrees below freezing. Or gradually add a 3rd feeding in the afternoon, something like a warm lunch to give them a little bit more energy to fight off the cold throughout the day. (Everybody loves a warm cup of coffee or hot cocoa, after being out in the cold all morning) So on these bitter cold mornings with windchill reaching to -10 to -15 degrees fahrenheit, it may be a good idea to feed more milk to your calves.
Also making sure they have fresh calf starter and warm water after every milk feeding is crucial.
Keep the Wind Out, and Keep it Dry
It seems almost redundant to mention, but making sure that the calves pens or hutches are almost over-bedded with dry straw, or other bedding is crucial. As well as making sure that the drafts are kept to an absolute minimum by closing all windows and vents and blocking anything else that may increase the amount of wind and cold air that are allowed into the pen.
Give them a jacket
Calf Jackets are great tools to keep newborn calves warm. Especially Jersey animals, which are usually smaller animals with less fat on them and take a longer time to build up their tolerance to cold weather.
When a calf is born and is still very wet, it can many times be our first reaction to throw a calf jacket on them, but to make sure that that animal is completely dry before giving them a calf jacket is very important. Wet hair will not help keep the calf insulated, so placing a calf jacket over wet hair will help, but will not work to it’s greatest potential if the calf is still wet underneath
Everybody has their methods and tools to keep their calves warm but here is just a few that i have found have worked in my experience. To ignore the cold and hope that the animal stays warm is not a great option, so take extra precautions and watch your calves. They will tell you what you need if you watch close enough.