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.