Autumn and winter calving can come with some stark challenges like snow, hail and other wintry weather.
But you can reap benefits long term with cheap weight gain come spring, and then higher price later in autumn.
However, to reap these advantages you’ve got to keep your calf out of trouble.
Here are some of the things that are especially important to look out for while calving in winter.
Dry them off quickly
Calves enter this world wet, and because of this they are more susceptible to chills if the weather is cold, frosty or snowing.
If the weather is exceedingly cold, you should dry off the calf rather than leaving them to ‘air dry’.
If there is not enough heat in the air, then the calf’s energy reserves are used to supply the heat, thus harming the calf’s chances of survival.
Another advantage of drying the calf is that it reduces the risk of the calf contracting a disease from the cow.
Feed your calf more
In cases of exceptional cold (When temperatures dip below -10C), the calf will require extra feed to stay warm.
A good rule of thumb at that point is for each one degree drop, the calf should get 2% more feed in the form of extra milk or increased milk powder concentration.
Make sure the calving area is well stocked with straw
Having enough straw for your calving pen is crucial during Calving in cold weather.
Calves are not born with a winter hair coat so they need that extra layer to help keep them strong and healthy.
Additionally, calves need to bed down in a clean place, so refresh and add to it regularly. Dirty bedding could lead to the calf ingesting manure and contaminated material, which in turn could lead to them getting sick.
Calves spend 80% of their time lying down.
Don’t forget to follow the usual guidelines you should apply in any calving
- Fast feeding of colostrum
- Move them outside asap
- Keep calving area hygienic
- Have a vet ready
- Have a clean water supply
- Have all your equipment readily accessible (see our checklist)
When you’re coming closer to calving time, you can reduce the risk of night calvings by simply feeding them at night.
Daytime calving in winter means a warmer environment for the newborn calf in their first hours, and a more alert farmer.
According Teagasc data, feeding your cows silage at night can cause a 9% increase in the number of cows calving during the day.