What should I feed my calves during the cold temperatures?

Many parts of the country are currently experiencing cold and freezing temperatures. Therefore, extra precautions should be put in place when it comes to feeding and managing young calves.

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 these animals 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. Data 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.