Hot weather can wreak havoc on a calf raising program. If a calf becomes heat stressed she is more likely to have a slower rate of gain, which can delay reaching breeding size in a timely manner. As a result, age at first calving could be pushed back. And ultimately, if a calf becomes too stressed from heat it can die.
“Coupled with these warmer temperatures, we typically see an influx of newborn calves start to arrive as the weather heats up,” says Dr. Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services for Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products. “This influx of calves could cause some challenges in pre-weaned calf protocols. Be prepared by having a warm weather management plan in place.”
Earleywine shares six potential challenges that may present themselves this summer and tips to turn these challenges into opportunities.
CHALLENGE: A large group of calves born at one time creates limited hutch or pen availability.
OPPORTUNITY: Explore the option of weaning sooner by switching to a full potential feeding program; if already feeding a full potential program, consider feeding more earlier, by feeding three times a day.
TIP: Consider adding a third feeding of milk replacer. Research shows that calves fed three times a day have shown optimal growth, better feed efficiency and consume more starter prior to weaning. This growth is optimal for dairy calves to help prepare them for desirable breeding weights and freshening at a younger age, leading to greater lifetime performance.
Also make sure you have extra space for maternity cows and extra hutches/housing space for calves. Elevate the rear of hutches, provide more ventilation and shade.
CHALLENGE: Natural colostrum can vary greatly in quality and quantity, depending on the health and management of the birth dam. Heat combined with overcrowded dry/maternity pens could make this more of a challenge in 2014.
OPPORTUNITY: A colostrum replacement can be a reliable source of the immunoglobulins, fat and nutrition a calf needs; no time delay for milking or pasteurizing is necessary.
TIP: Colostrum replacements allow each calf to be fed optimal quality and quantity, every time.
Cleaning and Sanitation Protocols
CHALLENGE: Warm weather promotes the growth of bacteria and disease organisms such as Cryptosporidium and Salmonella.
OPPORTUNITY: Adjust cleaning and sanitation protocols for warm weather. Work with your calf specialist to have a plan in place to adjust cleaning and sanitation protocols during traditionally warm weather months to reduce the incidences of diseases and stress to the calf.
TIP: Consistency is key. Summer can be difficult to maintain consistent feeding times due to vacations, other obligations, etc. Maintain consistent feeding times, amount fed and temperature of milk at feeding to help keep clostridial bloat occurrences low.
CHALLENGE: Warm weather increases respiration rates in calves, which can lead to rapid dehydration, reduced feed intake, a weaker immune system and increased internal body temperature of the calf. Once dehydration sets in calves can experience an increased risk of death.
OPPORTUNITY: Establish a feeding program that includes feeding diluted electrolytes free choice along with water or during every other water feeding to calves. Never add electrolyte powder to milk, always mix in water. Test water quality at least twice a year – make sure it is low in sodium, iron and other minerals; water quality is very important. High quality electrolytes with a suspension agent mixed properly can help combat the effects of heat stress.
TIP: Diluting electrolytes free choice is a great way to get calves to drink more fluids and stay hydrated. Industry consensus estimates heat stress occurs between 78 to 80 degrees F in calves. When temperatures rise above 78 degrees F the calf’s respiration rates increase.
Offer free choice water daily. Empty and refill water pails several times throughout the day to offer fresh water. Calves can double their water intake in warm weather. Switching to five-gallon pails may also be helpful.
Clean and sanitize water and milk pails frequently. Warm weather promotes algae, mold and bacteria growth. Keeping water and milk pails clean and sanitized will help keep these populations down, as well as help with the fly population.
CHALLENGE: Calves are a hot spot for flies.
OPPORTUNITY: Use a calf milk replacer and starter that include a feed through larvicide. This can help keep the fly population down. Minimize fly breeding areas around your facilities.
TIP: A reduction in flies may also reduce stress on the calf and help prevent the spread of disease. Diseases carried by flies include bovine virus diarrhea (BVD), the bovine herpesvirus (BHV-1) causing infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), parainfluenza 3 (PI3), pink eye, mastitis, bacterial scours, typhoid, anthrax, vibriosis and several clostridial diseases. Evaluate the areas surrounding your calves to identify other potential fly hot spots (e.g., tall grass, close proximity to lactating herd, spoiled feed).
CHALLENGE: A calf will burn more energy as it tries to drive heat from its body, and it is likely that fewer of the nutrients that are consumed will be put toward growth.
OPPORTUNITY: Feeding to a higher plane of nutrition can help calves continue to grow to their potential and meet their energy needs as they struggle to relieve heat stress. Transitioning to a calf milk replacer formulated for warm weather can help them accomplish this by providing an optimal protein-to-energy balance as temperatures rise.
TIP: Weigh the powder. This is important because bulk densities can differ between cold-weather and warm-weather seasonal products. It also helps to assure accuracy and consistency of the nutrients delivered.
Make a gradual transition. Transition calves over a three-day period by blending the warm-weather formulation with your calves’ current product. On Day 1, blend powders using a ratio of 25:75. On Day 2, blend them 50:50. Increase to a ratio of 75:25 on Day 3 and feed 100 percent of the new product on Day 4.
“Don’t view the inconveniences of warm weather calf management as challenges, turn these challenges into opportunities,” says Earleywine. “You only have one chance to feed calves right.”
For more information on warm weather calf management strategies, visit lolmilkreplacer.com or call 800-618-6455.