Managing Calves During the Cold Snap

With temperatures across Ireland set to drop below 0 for the next few days steps must be taken to ensure this has as little impact on young calves as possible. Calves are born with approximately 3-4% body fat. This leaves them incredibly exposed to cold stress during periods of cold weather. During periods of cold weather calves will burn energy to keep warm. This will increase stress on calves increasing incidences of scours and pneumonia. It is vital over the coming days calves are kept warm, dry and well fed. Below are some tips to help keep calves healthy and warm over the coming few days.

• Feed a little extra milk. Feeding extra milk/milk replacer will increase the energy supplied to the calves helping them stay warm and free from stress. If increasing concentration of powders do not do so without consulting your powder supplier. If calves receive too many total solids in a feeding they will become dehydrated.

• Provide fresh warm water after feeds (15-30 mins). At night in particular water should be blocked off as drinking water at freezing temperatures can be dangerous to calves and can increase the incidences of scour and bloat.

• Provide fresh, clean calf starter to calves every day. Calves will be hungrier during cold spells and starter is another excellent way to provide energy to calves during cold weather.

• Bed calves daily with straw and make sure its deep enough for them to nest in.

• Calf Coats are another great option and can help prevent heat and energy loss, especially to the younger and smaller body weight calves.

• Try to eliminate draughts at calf level. This can be done permanently using stock board on gates or temporarily using bales of straw/hay. It is important to note the change in direction of the wind during this cold spell which may leave calves more exposed.

• Canopies are also an excellent tool for preventing down draughts. In more open sheds red lamps can be hung on them to provide extra warmth.

• Its also important to make sure pneumonia and IBR vaccines are given to eligible calves to help prevent against respiratory diseases.

We are not used to extreme temperatures here in this country so it is important over the next couple of days the required adjustments are made to ensure calf health does not suffer.

If you require more information on how to best protect your calves over the coming days you can contact Shane Burns (B.Agr.Sc (Hons))on 086 778 7761 or contact your local Roche's Feeds Technical Sales Advisor.

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