Summer heat can spell trouble for calves, because they need extra energy and water to release body heat and cool themselves by panting or sweating. The Ontario Veal Association cites data from the University of Illinois that indicates extreme heat may accelerate nutritional and hydration needs by 20 to 30 percent.

The association points out that even mild dehydration of 1 to 5 percent loss of body weight from water loss can reduce metabolic efficiency and impair calves’ ability to regulate their own body heat. The association also offers the following signs of heat stress in calves:

  • Increased water consumption
  • Lethargic, “lazy” behavior
  • Standing rather than lying
  • Panting, sweating
  • Increase in disease; monitor incidence of scours
  • Reduced feed intake and/or growth
  • Rectal temperature higher than 102° F

Following are their tips for effectively feeding water and grain in hot weather:

  • Deliver cool water (50° to 60°F) free choice to help calves fight heat while using less energy, while promoting starter intake
  • Keep water out of direct sunlight and change regularly to minimize algae growth
  • Use different buckets for water and milk to avoid bacterial growth
  • Clean out starter daily to prevent mold growth
  • Keep grain from contaminating water

Read more heat-management advice.