The energy requirement of calves housed in unheated facilities increases during the winter months due to cold stress. Unfortunately, death rate sometimes increases in the winter and/or growth rate plummets unless calves receive additional energy. In addition, small-breed calves such as Jerseys have about a 20 percent larger surface area per unit of body weight than large-breed calves. Maurice Eastridge, professor and extension dairy specialist at The Ohio State University, and graduate student Whitney Bowen, provide these strategies to help you maintain the growth rates of smaller calves during the winter months:
1. Make sure your milk replacer contains at least 20 percent fat.
2. Increase the solids content of the milk in milk replacer from 12.5 to 16 percent.
3. Increase number of feedings per day from two to three.
4. Feed more milk per feeding, such as increasing from 2 quarts to 3 quarts twice a day.
5. Use a combination of these strategies so that small-breed calves consume at least 1.3 pounds of dry matter (milk replacer is approximately 95 percent DM), providing 0.3 pound of fat and large-breed calves consume 2 pounds DM (0.5 pound fat) per day.
In addition, offer free-choice calf starter and plenty of water, which can be a limiting nutrient during the winter months due to freezing or inadequate amounts being offered. Management strategies, such as providing ample clean, dry bedding, wind breaks and housing improvements, also can be used to reduce the maintenance energy requirement of calves during the winter.