- Ventilation - Keeping calf hutch airflow in check during cooler weather help reduce the risk of respiratory problems, such as pneumonia.
- Bedding ‒ calves should have a nesting score of three ‒ meaning that when lying down their hocks are not visible. Straw, cotton burs and wood shavings are all accepted bedding types. This bedding will provide added warmth, improved comfort and a barrier between the young calf and the ground below.
- Calf jackets also are very handy in the colder climates. Keeping a calf warm and well bedded allows the calf to utilize the energy it gains from colostrum, milk and grain to grow and develop rather than merely maintain its body temperature.
Even the smallest changes in a calf’s routine can cause stress, which can lead to health issues, loss of body condition or even death. Stressors include feed changes, weaning from milk, moving pens, weather or relocating from single housing to group pens.
Limiting the number of changes or transitions made at any given time can help reduce calf stress. For instance, if calves are changing pens, wait a few days after the move to change feed. The same idea can be applied when weaning calves from milk and moving into group settings; allow the calves a few days to adjust to not receiving milk before moving them. If vaccinations or dehorning are needed around the time of moving, work with your veterinarian to create a schedule that limits the stress on the animals.
“The overall health of the calves and heifers is greatly influenced by food, shelter, comfort and transitioning through the growth stages,” says Fisher. “When these components are addressed, health problems can be reduced greatly in both the heat of summer and the cold of winter.”
The next time you walk through your calf and heifer pens, stop and think about the basics. Are they comfortable? Do they have feed and clean, fresh water all of the time? How can I reduce my stress by reducing theirs? At the end of the day we all want the same thing: a healthy calf.