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During cold weather calves require more energy to keep warm – so less energy is available for growth and their immune system.

Young calves will not yet be ruminating thus less heat is generated by digestion, so it is vital to feed calves enough highly digestible milk to give them the energy to maintain body temperature and fuel growth. Ideally this milk should be based on highly digestible Imunopro concentrated whey protein 

Young calves are very susceptible to the cold.
Young calves are very susceptible to the cold.

Young calves, less than three weeks of age, are very susceptible to the cold. In fact, temperatures only have to drop to 10 to15°C for a young calf to require more feed to maintain their body temperature, grow rate and good health.

By four weeks of age calves are more robust and will not ‘feel the cold’ until temperatures drop below 6-10°C.

Remember, the temperature below which a calf needs extra energy to keep warm is highly dependent on moisture levels and air speed – draughts of just 5mph can make calves 8°C to 10°C cooler.

Adequate colostrum

Whatever the ambient temperature it is vital that all newborn calves receive enough good quality colostrum. Give a first feed of four litres or 10% of bodyweight within four hours of birth. This should then be followed up by a further two litres within 12 hours of birth. 

Practical measures

When it comes to milk feeding in cold weather, for a calf less than three weeks old, you need to step up the level of milk solids by 100g per day for every 10°C drop in temperature below 20°C. For example, if the outside temperature is 10°C, feed an extra 100g of milk powder per day. This can be achieved by either increasing the volume fed, or by increasing the mixing rate.

Keep bedding plentiful, clean and dry, and allow calves to ‘nest’ in the straw. Plastic and timber are better insulating materials than concrete and steel. Provide shelter from draughts and consider the use of breathable, water resistant calf jackets and/or the provision of an external heat source close to the calves. 

 For further information Freephone 0800 8652 2522, browse WWW.FEEDFORGROWTH.COM  or contact Volac NI business manager Alistair Sampson tel; 07860 626442, e mail alistair.sampson@volac.com

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