UC News > Feeding Calves Through Winter

Feeding Calves Through Winter

Nov 02, 2020

With winter moving in, this is the time of the year to check how your calves are adjusting to the cold. Calves are born with 3% to 4% of body weight as fat. As we enter the coldest part of the year, we have already experienced days below a calf’s thermal neutral zone. 
 

Calves under 21 days of age, experience cold stress when the temperature dips below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and calves over 21 days, experience cold stress at 42 degrees Fahrenheit. We must provide them with proper housing, increased energy, deep bedding, and calf jackets.

Nutrition also plays a key role in supporting the calf in growth and performance, and if the calf does not receive enough nutrition during cold stress, they will begin to use body reserves. This will in turn mean that the calf will divert energy from weight gain and the immune system, towards staying warm. Table 1 shows the amount of nutrition the calf needs as temperature changes to maintain a 1.5lb Average Daily Gain (ADG) at 100lbs of Body Weight.


 

Nutrition also plays a key role in supporting the calf in growth and performance, and if the calf does not receive enough nutrition during cold stress, they will begin to use body reserves. This will in turn mean that the calf will divert energy from weight gain and the immune system, towards staying warm. Table 1 shows the amount of nutrition the calf needs as temperature changes to maintain a 1.5lb Average Daily Gain (ADG) at 100lbs of Body Weight.

Increasing the quantity of milk or milk replacer can help meet the increased calorie need of the calf. There are a few ways we can do this. One we can add another feeding with at least 6 hours between each feeding. Two, we can keep the same number of feedings but increase the total volume fed and keep the solids the same. Or work closely with your calf nutritionist and increase solids in the same volume. This needs to be done cautiously. Consistency is very important for the calves so concentrating the mixture with more solids is not ideal. Additionally, we want to look for a milk replacer that is designed for the season. Cows Match Cold Front is an option offered at United Cooperative. This is a milk replacer that has 26% Protein and 20% Fat. This ratio will help to keep calves on track for growth and not hinder calf starter intake. For whole milk herds, we can add Pasteurized Milk Balancer for additional solids per calf per day. This product also brings you many other benefits including an ionophore, vitamin and mineral balancing, probiotics/prebiotics, and helps to correct the variation in solids from the milk you are putting in the pasteurizer.

Another key area is evaluating what energy sources are in your milk replacer. Calves derive energy from two sources – carbohydrates and fat. Lactose is the predominant source of carbohydrates in milk replacer. Carbohydrates are digested quickly and provide the calf with energy almost right away. Fat is for storage and is utilized for future energy needs.

When we look at the fat source in milk replacer, we should realize there are differences in the fatty acids. As we evaluate in our milking herd diets, it is also very important for our calves. The length of the fatty acid chain impacts how rapidly the calf can use that fat source. We need a variety of fatty acids in our milk replacer to be effective for growth, mammary development, and immunity.

Fresh Water

During the winter, water is important for calves. While we recognize that it can freeze during the cold winter weather, following a routine and offering warm water, between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, is critical in avoiding lowering body temperature after milk feeding. An extra feeding of water between milk feedings can also help increase water intake when buckets are freezing.  It is also very important to make sure the water is low sodium or non-softened water.

Calf Starter

Calves can increase their starter intake by almost 200% in the winter. Offer a fresh, high-quality calf starter (18-22%) in amounts they will finish between feedings. Low molasses will help with the calf starter from becoming too hard or freezing.  

For more information about winter calf feeding, contact your United Cooperative calf or heifer specialist. For feed location information go to www.unitedcooperative.com/feed and scroll to the map on the lower part of the page.
 

By Suzie Benoit, Feeds Sales Specialist

*Table 1 – Land O Lakes Calf College Notes



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