Special attention needs to be paid to your calves during winter season. Here are some practical tips to make sure the animals are well taken care of:
1. Check the feeding temperature of your milk and colostrum
Milk cools quickly when exposed to colder environment.
If you feed milk replacer, you may need to increase mixing temperature in order to ensure the milk is warm enough when it reaches the last calf.
If you feed pasteurized milk, you may need to adjust holding temperature.
2. Monitor washwater temperature.
If you are washing bottles or buckets in the sin, make sure the water temperature is warmer than 49ºC.
When washwater cools, the fat and protein particles can come out of the solution and stick to the plastic, causing the equipment coming out of the wash to become just as dirty when it went in.
3. Patch holes in the calf hutches
Main function of calf hutch is to keep the calf warm, dry and out of the elements.
When hutches are intact, they create a draft-free environment for the calf.
However, if there is a hole, it creates a pathway for air to flow across the hutch, creating a draft on the calf.
A calf in a hutch does not have the ability to get out of the draft.
This will cause higher risk of disease and lower rate of gain for that animal.
If it is not possible to replace hutches that have been damage, patch them to prevent air flow over the calf.
4. Check the ventilation system
In calf barns, proper air exchange is crucial for the calf health.
Make sure that fans are clean and functioning properly.
Make sure curtains close properly so that there are no openings that can create a draft.
5. Use high quality bedding
Straw keeps the calf dry and provides insulation to protect it from cold air.
Stray should be deep enough that the calf's legs are covered when it lies down.
Beds must be dry.
6. Put on calf jackets
The extra layer of insulation protects the calf from the elements and allows it to use more of its energy for growth.
Newborn calf's thermoneutral zone is around 20ºC.
It will start to experience cold stress when the temperature drops below that.
A general rule would be to put calf jackets on new born calves when temperature are under 15ºC and put jackets on the 1 - 2 week old calves when temperatures are dropping into single digits.
7. Set the windbreaks
Think about how the wind travels through your farm and whether a windbreak is required to protect your clves.
When feeding calves, pay attention how the wind travels over the hutches.
Sometimes the wind comes between buildings and over a calf or heifer pen.
Strategically placed big bales can have a big effect on the calf's comfort.
8. Review the plan for keeping newborns warm and dry
If you are using a calf warming box, make sure it is clean and in working condition.
If you are using heat lamps, test the bulbs to see if they are working.
Review how employees will take care for a calf born in the muck.
It would need to be warmed up and washed and dried in a place where manure would not be pressed on to other calves coming through the system.
9. Review your feeding program
A calf's maintenance requirement will increase when the weather gets cold.
It will use energy to keep warm and leave less energy for growth.
In order to keep a calf growing in colder temperature, it needs to consume more solids.
Feed more frequently and feed more volume per feeding or increase the solid contents.
Develop a strategy for getting more milk solids into your calves.
Calf starter needs to have sufficient nutrients for growth.
10. Treat your employees well
Employees will tend to perform better when they are treated well.
Provide employees with proper tools and equipment for them to manage the calves.
Ensure employees safety throughout the process.
Check with employees often if they require anything.