7 Tips to Jumpstart Your Cold Weather Calf Feeding Program

7 Tips to Jumpstart Your Cold Weather Calf Feeding Program

Megan Wildman

Calf and Heifer Specialist at Purnia Animal Nutrition

Latest posts by Megan Wildman (see all)

Cooler days and nights may have the thought of winter creeping into your mind. While 60 degrees F. is comfortable for us, calves fewer than three weeks old experience cold stress at this temperature. This can reduce growth and performance.

For happy, healthy calves all fall and winter long, use these tips to jumpstart your cold weather calf feeding program.

INCREASE NUTRITION LEVELS

Calves spend more energy staying warm in winter. Increasing nutrition levels will ensure calves have enough total energy to maintain body condition and continue growing.

If calves are growing well through the summer and fall, they’ll be better equipped to handle challenges in winter. All year long, feed calves a full potential diet of at least 2.5 pounds of milk solids from 8–10 quarts of milk or milk replacer per calf, per day to help calves prepare for winter weather.

Adding a third feeding is another beneficial way to increase nutrition when temperatures drop. If you’re already feeding three times a day, increase the volume at each feeding. Don’t just add water to increase the volume. Keep the solids concentration the same and bump up the total volume of solution for proper nutrition.

TRANSITION TO A SEASONAL MILK REPLACER

Using different milk replacers for winter and summer seasons helps calves meet different seasonal energy requirements. Feeding a winter-specific milk replacer helps calves handle cold stress, maintain body condition, and meet increased energy needs.

Total energy is the most crucial factor to consider when choosing a seasonal milk replacer. To maximize energy levels, look for a winter milk replacer with 20 percent fat and at least 26 percent protein.

KEEP STARTER FRESH

Monitor starter intake closely as the season changes—it can increase as much as 200 percent in winter. It’s a balancing act of providing enough starter to prevent empty buckets, yet keeping starter fresh and avoiding overfeeding.

To keep starter fresh, feed smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day. Also, look for a starter low in molasses. Molasses is poorly digested by calves and can cause the starter to freeze into unpalatable chunks.

AVOID FROZEN BUCKETS

Water is equally as important in cold temperatures as it is in the summer heat. Dry winter air can dehydrate calves. Providing an adequate water supply helps keep calves hydrated and boosts starter intake to support growth.

Offer water to calves immediately after each milk feeding and let them drink as much as they want. Make sure water is 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the amount of energy needed for a calf to get the water to its core body temperature. To avoid frozen buckets, remove excess water from buckets after feeding.

USE CALF JACKETS

Calf jackets are a simple and effective tool to help calves conserve heat. Use calf jackets on newborn calves until they outgrow them. It is important to establish protocols and train employees to properly wash and sanitize calf jackets between uses to avoid germ-contamination between calves.

MAINTAIN DEEP, DRY STRAW BEDS

A deep straw bed can help calves nest and conserve heat. Calf pens and hutches should always be clean and dry. Use the knee test for a quick way to test bedding. If you put your knee down and it stays dry, the bedding doesn’t need to change. However, if your knees become wet it is time to re-bed.

PROVIDE A DRAFT-FREE ENVIRONMENT

In warm weather, drafts can keep calves cool. When the air cools, frigid drafts cause body heat loss, which means calves must use more energy to maintain body temperature and have less energy available for growth. Check for drafts with your bare hand. You should feel no more than a slight air movement. Work with your team to determine the best solution to minimize drafts.

Preparing calves early for seasonal changes is the best way to keep them growing, healthy, and happy. For additional questions, contact your local young animal expert.

Perspectives Fall 2017 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Fall 2017 Issue Now Available!

The Fall 2017 edition of Perspectives Magazine is here! As always, Perspectives is brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition!

We take a look at the Champlain Valley Water Coalition—learn about what Vermont farmers are doing to improve the waterways. This issue is also jam packed with lots of excellent tips and technical articles from industry experts. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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All in a Day’s Work: Life Lessons from Pleasant Valley Farms’ Herdsmen Chris Lourie & Jeff Grennon

All in a Day’s Work: Life Lessons from Pleasant Valley Farms’ Herdsmen Chris Lourie & Jeff Grennon

“I start at 5 a.m.”

“I’m usually here at 5:30.”

Chris Lourie and Jeff Grennon are used to early mornings and the 12 to 14 hour workday. As herdsmen for Pleasant Valley Farms in Richford, Vermont, they’re responsible for the health of the dairy’s 3,000 cows. Forget sit-down lunch breaks. They eat while walking through the barns.

“I average between 11 ½ and 13 miles a day, walking,” Chris says. “And that’s just inside the barn.” He motions to a tracking app on his phone.

“25,000…35,000 steps,” Jeff adds. “I had a Fitbit in my pocket for awhile. Then I lost it. Just as well!” Both men laugh.

Sitting in a break room at the farm—so far north in Vermont you can see the Canadian border on the horizon—the herdsmen pause during their busy Saturday morning for an interview with Phoenix Feeds. Chris, in a ball cap and Carhartt vest, rocks back and forth in a chair. Jeff, in coveralls with his name in cursive on the pocket, drums a tabletop. The pair are fidgety—perhaps guiltily so. They’re not used to being off their feet.

When asked to talk about what they do on a daily basis, they visibly relax. At 54 years old—they’re the same age—both men have had long careers in the dairy industry, respectively. They’re experts in this subject.
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Feed Center: Design for Your Management Style

Feed Center: Design for Your Management Style

Layout and design of your feed center can save you more money, or cost you more money, depending on your operation. There are many different ways to build a feed center that will work for you. You have to decide what type best fits your management style. Maybe a fully automated system is best suited to your management capabilities to allow you to feed with minimal labor. Or, you may want to have a feed center that has little to no mechanization, other than a loader and a mixer. Another way may be to use a combination of the best features of both to maximize your feeding operation’s efficiency. Studies have shown that as tons of feed per labor hour increase, typically the cost per ton to deliver the feed decreases, which means the layout and design is critical to the overall efficiency of your dairy’s feeding operation by having the feedstuffs as close to the loading area as possible. Do your homework on feed center design and layout before you pour concrete and can’t change it. Go visit as many different feed centers as you can, and ask the operator’s thoughts on each type of feed center visited. You can take the best ideas from several and incorporate them into one that best suits your operation. To give you an idea of the possible designs, find generalized layouts for the three types below.

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Perspectives Summer 2017 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Summer 2017 Issue Now Available!

We’re proud to announce the release of the Summer 2017 edition of Perspectives Magazine, brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition!

This issue, check out our featured farm story on Landview Farm in Eagle Bridge, NY. In addition to great human interest stories, we also have you covered on the technical side of things with tips and best practices. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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Heat Stress Can Be Taxing

Heat Stress Can Be Taxing

Just like tax season comes around every year, whether we like it or not, it requires preparation and action on our part; heat stress also comes around every year, whether we like it or not—and it too requires preparation and action on our part to help our animals cope with the summer heat. While it may still feel like “heat” is months away, it is not too soon to start preparation. Now is a good time to start testing sprinklers and fans but also giving thought to what else you might consider to help your animals this summer.

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Perspectives Spring 2017 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Spring 2017 Issue Now Available!

The Spring 2017 issue of Perspectives magazine is here, brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition!

There’s a wealth of amazing stories this issue, from our Featured Farm, McKnight’s River Breeze Farm, to in-depth technical articles from industry experts. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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SoyChlor Stops Costly Early-Lactation and Transition Disorders Before They Begin

SoyChlor Stops Costly Early-Lactation and Transition Disorders Before They Begin

You find a cow that calved last night lying down with her head back over her flank. She can’t stand and her ears are cold. She has milk fever! If you treat her before muscle or nerve damage has occurred, an I.V. injection of calcium will get her on her feet in minutes. Unfortunately, she is still in trouble. That bout of severe hypocalcemia sets her up for more problems and makes her more likely to be culled.

But milk fever is just the tip of the iceberg. Sub-clinical hypocalcemia, a calcium deficiency mild enough that cows don’t show any symptoms, is way more prevalent than the clinical form. This is where the big economic drain occurs, with increased incidences of retained placenta, displaced abomasum, ketosis, mastitis, and reduced milk production in early lactation. In many herds, 30–60% of the cows and 25% of the first-calf heifers develop sub-clinical hypocalcemia. At the onset of lactation, large amounts of calcium move from the blood into colostrum and milk. The calcium lost to milk must be replaced from diet calcium or from calcium stored in bones if the cow is to avoid a further decline in blood calcium.

Preventing sub-clinical hypocalcemia will improve the health, productivity, and longevity of cows, as well as improve the economic bottom line of the dairy. And, prevention is possible with SoyChlor®, a palatable chloride supplement for close-up dry dairy cows.
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Help Calves Get Through the Cold Season

Help Calves Get Through the Cold Season

Megan Wildman

Calf and Heifer Specialist at Purnia Animal Nutrition

Latest posts by Megan Wildman (see all)

It’s cold outside, and your calves can feel it. Calves under three weeks of age can begin feeling cold stress much earlier than most people think. Even at ambient temperatures of 60 degrees F and below, cold stress can hinder calf growth and performance. Cold stress can continue to affect calves over three weeks of age as ambient temperatures dip to 40 degrees F and below. Below are some tips to help keep calves growing and thriving until these temperatures begin to heat back up.
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Perspectives Winter 2017 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Winter 2017 Issue Now Available!

The Winter 2017 issue of Perspectives magazine is here, brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition!

This issue features Hatchland Farm, a producer-handler in Haverhill, New Hampshire, as well as a wealth of other topics about dairy farming in the Northeast. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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