Wintering calves

Wintering calves

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Cattle producers should take care to avoid common mistakes during winter calf care. Ben Ekern, Midwest Sales Manager of Calf-Tel by Hampel, explains.

“Some common mistakes for winter calves here include limited energy intake, so increase your energy intakes for wintertime, or not enough bedding. So, increase your bedding to have a nice nesting score of three, so the calves are deeply bedded and stay warm that way, and not utilizing calf jackets would be another thing that's not done in wintertime on some farms as well, too.”

Calves need energy to stay warm and grow, that’s why it’s important to provide enough energy for calves.

“Calves need so much energy to stay warm and to grow. So, the first energy is going to go to keep them themselves alive, just like lactation for cows, energy goes for maintenance before it goes for lactation and milk production. For calves too, if you want that calf to grow and get the gains, you need more energy, more calories to burn, the calories will come from milk and grain for the calves primarily.”

When it comes to bedding, he refers to the score of three.

“So, when you look at your calves and they're laying down in their hutch or their pen, make sure that you can't see their legs very well. I mean make sure that they're  their knees, their hoofs are in the straw, so that way it’s a nesting score of three. If it's laying on a concrete floor for example it’s a nesting score of one, there's no insulating properties on that. So, two is somewhat covered and three is a deeper nesting score, so it's kind of like nestling in a, in a nest.”

And Ekern says that if you are using a calf jacket, to use it properly.

“Put it on after the calf is dry, don't put on a wet calf because that moisture would stay on that calf, so after the calf was dried off. So, usually within a number of hours that's fine, and then get it on there so it's loose but not too tight, not too loose. Adjust the straps, got adjustable straps on the calf jacket as well too. And biggest question might be when to take that jacket off. So, when to take that calf jacket off, one is temperature. So, when you put your hand underneath that calf jacket and it's sweaty, it's probably warm enough for the calf and then you can take that calf jacket off on those average days. Age wise, to, once your intakes are up their energies are going to be high and the calories will be high, so it's better to take it off. Baby calves, they need that extra installation, keep them growing keep them warm.”

That’s Ben Ekern, Midwest Sales Manager of Calf-Tel by Hampel.

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