Are you feeding your calves enough as the ‘cold snap’ approaches?

The country is in the grips of a major freeze and Met Eireann has issued a Status Orange snow and ice warning for the counties of Dublin, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Wicklow and Meath.

A Status Yellow low temperature warning has also been issue for Ireland; temperatures could drop as low as -5° tonight, with widespread, severe frost.

Scattered snow showers are forecast for later today and into tomorrow night. These will lead to accumulations of between 4cm and 6cm by Wednesday morning.

Whatever the weather brings, calves still need to be looked after and must be provided with adequate bedding, roughage, feed and water.

According to Teagasc, cold weather is stressful for calves and those that are exposed to the cold are predisposed to pneumonia.

When calves are not fed adequately in cold temperatures, they don’t grow as quickly; they are using their energy to keep warm instead. If calves are shivering after feeding, it is a sign that they are cold and are not being fed adequately.

A good rule of thumb, Teagasc says, is to increase the amount of milk replacer by 2% for every degree the temperature falls below 10°.

*20% protein, 20% fat milk replacer mixed at 125g/L. Provided the calves are dry, well-bedded and kept out of draughts. Source: Teagasc

Farmers must also ensure that the housing provided is free from draughts, well-bedded and stocked at the appropriate levels.

Deep beds of straw are an effective way of protecting the young calf from the cold. They should be able to nest, so that their legs are covered by straw when lying down.

Breathable and washable jackets are also useful for a dry, newborn calf up to one month of age. However, care should be taken when cleaning these to prevent the possible spread of disease among calves.