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The Cold Weather Challenge for Calves

 keep your calves warm in the cold weather


Keeping your calves growing during cold weather


With winter upon us, the challenge for all calf rearers is keeping them healthy and maintaining their growth. An ambient temperature of below 20ᴼC is deemed ‘cold’ for a young calf (0-3 weeks) – there would be few calf houses where the winter temperature reaches that level during the night or day! 


When temperatures fall, calf growth rates can plummet, simply because calves require so much more energy just to keep warm, leaving less available for growth and for the immune system to function, meaning calves are more susceptible to respiratory infection and scour. During periods of cold weather, calves must be kept warm, so fed enough milk to provide them with the required extra energy.  


Lower Critical Temperature (LCT) is the level at which animals begin to require additional energy to maintain their body temperature. For calves 0-3 weeks of age, the LCT is 20ᴼC, and 10ᴼC for calves older than 3 weeks. A  0-3 week old calf weighing 50kg, will need an extra 100g milk powder per day for each 10ᴼC drop in ambient temperature below 20ᴼC  to maintain growth at the same rate. For example, if outside temperature is 0ᴼC, young calves should be fed an extra 200g per day. If you normally feed 625g per day, you will need to feed a total of 625+200 = 825g per day.


Increase the amount of milk solids provided each day, either by increasing the mixing rate, or by increasing the volume fed. The requirement for more energy in cold weather is not linked to the type of milk you are feeding. Whether you are feeding whole milk or milk replacer, you need to feed more in cold weather to maintain the same growth rate.


Cold weather is yet another challenge that calves can face, but ensuring calves are well-nourished and properly housed (allowing them to stay warm), will help them to continue to grow well and remain healthy.  Read more about looking after your calves here.



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