It is crucial to make winter preparation a priority as this will ensure your calves will be ready to handle the cold weather. Here are 6 tips we recommend:
1. Draft a plan
It is crucial to have a plan to outline the details of your winter calf feeding, bedding, health, weaning and so on.
Once the plan is in place, train your employees on calf management protocols.
Having proper training is important to reduce the impact of cold stress as well as maximising calf performance during winter.
2. Ensure hutch is in good condition
Make sure the hutch is in good condition before winter season.
This will help reduce labour and maintenance needs during cold weather.
Another important point is to assess the location of hutch. Make sure it is in a good position to prevent wind and snow drifts from entering hutches.
3. Stock up on bedding
Keeping calves warm is the main priority during winter.
Having additional bedding will help to keep calves warm.
Ensure that the bedding is clean and dry.
Optimal winter bedding should be deep enough to cover the calves' legs when they are lying down.
Have a protocol in place to inspect the bedding everyday to ensure calves are warm.
4. Prepare calf jackets
Calf jackets are important to help maintain body temperature in calves up to 3 weeks old.
Ensure all calf jackets are clean, dry and in good condition.
Order them early as they usually run out very fast during winter season.
5. Make sure you have proper ventilation
Calf ventilation is very important especially during winter.
Evaluate your indoor calf housing ventilation system before winter as it allows you some time to adjust or upgrade if needed.
For optimal calf ventilation, there should be a minimum of 4 air changes per hour.
Keep hutch vents open to allow air exchange to remove bacteria or any ammonia build up.
6. Make sure feed buckets are protected
Feeding excess water or starter can cause bucket to freeze, which will decrease nutrition intake of calves.
Adjust by feeding smaller amounts more frequently to avoid frozen bucket and keep feed fresh throughout the day.
If needed, have protective coverings for outdoor buckets to reduce contaminants.