Changes to calf management that improve overall calf comfort and performance become especially paramount during heat stress conditions. According to a new Penn State University fact sheet, there are several strategies that can help calves beat the heat this summer. Among them is the use of shade, even for calves housed in hutches.
Several studies have shown that shade lowers both the temperature inside calf hutches, as well as calf body temperature and respiration rates. Several options for shade exist, including solid roofing, 80 percent shade cloth or simply by positioning hutches in an area shaded by trees.
Calf barns with solid roofs offer built-in shade. However, some pens may experience more direct sunlight than others, depending on the layout. If calves are not able to move out of direct sunlight, consider shade curtains. In greenhouse-style barns, clear plastic covered with shade cloth or white plastic have been found to be equally effective in blocking solar radiation.
The new fact sheet provides a wealth of additional ways to mitigate heat stress in calves:
- Move more air. When possible, utilize prevailing winds to take advantage of natural air movement.
- Offer plenty of fresh, clean water.
- Keep grain fresh. Remove uneaten starter and clean out wet or moldy feed daily to maintain freshness.
- Provide a clean, dry resting area for calves. You may want to consider inorganic bedding to help keep calves cooler.
- Work calves in the morning when both body temperature and environmental temperature are at their lowest points for the day.
- Consider feeding more milk replacer.