Calving can be touch and go at the best of times, let alone in wintry weather like frost and snow.
Keeping calves warm as soon as they hit the ground is paramount during a cold snap.
Here are a few ways you can do just that.
Image Source: Jenn Harbage
Making sure the calf gets their colostrum is the single most important thing you can do for them when frosty temperatures begin to bite.
If the calf is particularly weak, consider collecting the colostrum yourself and then bottle feeding the calf to control the amount the calf takes.
If there is excess colostrum in any of the cattle, you should freeze it for a rainy day.
Occasionally a cow may not produce enough colostrum or there may be a problem with it.
Don’t leave the newborn calf to air dry – dry them with a towel. If you leave the calf to air dry they will be more susceptible to chills. When you towel dry the calf it gives the calf a layer of insulation between the cold air and their skin. They need this as they don’t have a winter coat like the older cattle.
During the summer when there is warmer air it is less of an issue, however in wintry conditions, the calf squanders their energy.
Well heated, well ventilated shed
If your shed is a high temperature but badly ventilated, it provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If there isn’t good enough air movement, the moisture in the air will collect and form bacteria-filled puddles.
Calves are born with a severely underdeveloped immune system so you need to avoid this.
Leave tagging until later
Tagging the newborn calf at this time could affect blood flow to the ear, and should be avoided to prevent frostbite if the weather is too cold.
Make sure the pen has plenty of clean bedding for the calf. They need it for warmth, but if it isn’t hygienic they can get sick. Newborn calves will spend 80% of their time lying down.
Make sure the straw is sufficiently dry, and you can test this easily, by kneeling in it and seeing if your knees are wet when you get up.
If they get hypothermic, use a warming box
breathing warm air helps raise the calf’s core temperature — since blood circulates through the lungs
Boxes should be cleaned and disinfected between calves. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the box or it could cause humidity, which is conducive to pneumonia.
Tube feed warm milk
One way to help your calf combat chills is to tube feed warm milk or fluids. By raising it to the calf’s body temperature (38-39C) the calf saves energy and it nourished.
Have you got any tips for cattle farmers going through a cold snap during calving season? Tell them in the comments!