After one of the coldest winters in recent history, calf raisers may have learned a thing or two about how a calf’s environment affects energy demands. As the temperatures rise and we head into the summer months, it is important to remember that calves can face nutritional challenges in the summer months as well, says Dr. Christie Underwood, a calf and heifer specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition, located in Texas.
When temperatures rise, calves’ energy needs escalate as respiration rates increase as they attempt to drive heat from their bodies. Coupled with this increase in energy is a reduction in feed intake and as a result, growth is reduced.
Underwood notes that at 78 degrees F and above, calves are susceptible to heat stress and can experience:
- Decreased feed intake
- Reduced growth and increased respiration
- Less nutritional efficiency
“To meet these additional energy demands and to keep calves growing all summer long, calves need a diet that more efficiently provides the optimal nutritional balance of energy and protein to help maintain growth, despite the temperature,” says Underwood.
Since calves utilize energy from their feed differently in warmer months, Underwood recommends that calf starter feeds formulated for warmer weather should include:
Keeping feed fresh, so that intake is consistent is important for ensuring that calves are consuming enough energy and protein, as these nutrients help support maintenance, immune function, and growth. Technologies such as AppetiteMAKER help support increased feed intake of young dairy calves with less feed refusal and waste. With an increase in appetite, it is important to remember to keep clean, fresh water available to calves at all times.
Larvicides are designed to help control emerging fly populations and therefore help reduce disease transmission and irritation by flies in calf housing areas. Underwood recommends ClariFly Larvicide as an effective technology for inhibiting the development of mature flies.
Highly digestible organic trace minerals
Incorporating highly digestible organic trace minerals, specifically organic chromium, are proven in providing nutrients at the cellular level, allowing calves to utilize energy more efficiently.
There are many excellent calf starter options to choose from. However, Underwood challenges calf raisers to look beyond the nutrition label and educate themselves on the actual feed technologies and the supporting research that allow a superior product to deliver greater performance. Taking just a few minutes to become more aware of what technologies are in calf feed products will help develop healthier calves that then go on to become productive cows with more lifetime profit potential.