Like most baby mammals, calves are less capable of regulating their body temperature than adults. If a calf feels cold stress, its growth rate will slow down and it will be more susceptible to health issues.
Animals have a thermo neutral zone where they are at a comfortable temperature and don’t need to use any energy to maintain a core temperature. When their core temperature is outside the thermo neutral zone the animal will modify its behaviour to compensate. In the case of a calf it will start shivering and eating more to generate heat. All calves are at risk in cold weather but calves under 3 weeks of age are particularly susceptible as they have a thinner coat and have less fat to protect them from the cold. Colostrum absorption can also be affected by cold stress. Keep an eye out for shivering calves and raised hair which can be signs of cold stress, and prioritise getting these calves warm.
Reducing cold stress in your calves
When the environmental temperature drops below 15 degrees (5 degrees for calves over 3 weeks of age), it is essential to help your calves maintain their core temperature. This is especially crucial for calves under three weeks of age.
The following will help reduce the impact of cold weather on your calves:
- housing should keep calves dry and away from drafts, but still have good ventilation
- bedding such as straw needs to be clean and dry to provide insulation and enough milk or feed needs to be provided so the calf’s energy requirements are met
- adequate clean and good quality calf starters should be provided for more energy and rumen development
- plenty of fresh clean water needs to be available to the calves to promote calf starter intake
- calf coats should be provided for young, smaller, sick, weak and struggling calves
If you would like to know more about calf housing, calf starters, or calf coats contact Farm Services on 1300 838 700 to discuss with one of our veterinarians
Calf coats are excellent for keeping young calves warm. We suggest calf coats are suitable for routine use in healthy yet vulnerable calves. We particularly recommend jackets for smaller calves in poor weather, calves under three weeks of age, sick calves or calves that are weak and struggling.
When using calf coats check underneath coats regularly for body condition and check how well they fit the growing calf.
Perfect Udder coats are available from The Vet Group and have a durable, water- resistant nylon shell, with a warm polyester insulated lining. There are adjustable chest and leg straps to ensure the coats fit snugly and stay on. A reflective strip allows easy identification of calves at night.
Jute coats for older calves – particularly those reared outside through the coldest parts of winter – are also available and can help promote higher growth rates and lower incidence of disease.
The Perfect Udder coats can be purchased through our clinics or online at shop.thevetgroup.com.au
CalfWise Small Coat (Jersey) $ 38.70
CalfWise Large Coat (Fresian) $ 43.25
Mirotec Small Coat – $140.55
Mirotec Large Coat – $154.00
Jute Coats available in 2’9” or 3’ $ 36.50