Maximising calf performance within those first 8 weeks of life is key to promoting the lifetime performance of the animal. Therefore, in cold weather (less than 15 degrees C), where there is an increased challenge to keep warm and where it is sensible to have a strategy in place to mitigate the impact the environment may have. Here are some pointers:
- Colostrum; the liquid gold, first feed for any calf. Quality colostrum is key for determining the survival and health of the newborn. Following the 4Q’s; quality, quantity, quick and quiet can help give that calf the best start in life!
- Feeding; the calf uses more energy to keep warm, and to mitigate the impact on growth, more energy must be ingested. Adding more replacers into the same volume of water can be done BUT it must be done so carefully as you do not want to upset the gut and have a negative impact on the gut integrity. An arguably safer solution is to increase the volume of the feed, feeding an extra 0.5-1L at each meal.
- Calf jackets; would you go out at this time of year without an extra layer? Calf jackets are helpful for those young calves to keep warm and dry, promoting health and performance. Jackets must be managed to maintain hygiene; washing them between calves is important for animal health and to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
- Bedding and ventilation; alongside jackets and nutrition, increasing the available bedding material for nesting, and eliminating drafts are useful ways to support your calves this winter. Ensuing bedding is sufficiently deep to allow nesting is key as well as ensuring it is dry and clean! If you can see the legs when they are lying down, the bedding may not be deep enough to insulate the calf properly.
Don’t compromise performance this Winter! Get in touch with the NWF Youngstock team for advice and support on maximising your calf-rearing enterprise.