Protecting Young Calves from Cold Stress

Protecting Young Calves from Cold Stress

Temperature Matters
• Young calves are very susceptible to low temperatures
– They are on highly digestible feed and are not yet ruminating (so less heat is generated by digestion)
– In the first week of life, calves will start using energy from feed to keep warm at temperatures less than 15°C
– High risk calves (difficult birth, twins) will feel cold at higher temperatures
• By the 4th week calves are more robust and will not ‘feel the cold’ until about 0°C
• High moisture levels and increased air speed (draughts) will dramatically increase the susceptibility to cold stress
– Draughts of only 5 mph will make calves feel 8-10°C colder

Impact of cold stress in young calves
• Energy is diverted from growth to maintaining body temperature
– Growth rates will decrease
– Increased susceptibility to disease

Preventing cold stress in calves
• Have a plan for when cold stress is likely to happen
– When ambient temperature drops below 15°C
– At higher temperatures for high-risk calves

General housing considerations
– Provide effective barriers to draughts at calf-level
– Provide calves with places to shelter
– Plastic and timber are better insulating materials than concrete and steel
– Promote drainage of moisture
– Provide calves with plenty of bedding to keep them dry and allow them to ‘nest’ in the straw

Specific intervention measures
– Provide calf jackets
– Provide external heat source close to calves
– Increase feed rates during periods when cold stress is likely

• Increase volume fed

• Increase concentration of calf milk replacer