According to research published in the December Journal of Dairy Science, calves with adequate nutrition can handle sustained exposure to moderately cold temperatures of about 40 degrees F. The researchers compared calf growth, health and select metabolic and immunologic responses for calves that were three to 10 days old at the beginning of the experiment. The results from these calves were compared with similarly aged calves housed in temperatures that averaged about 60 degrees F.
The study found that pre-ruminant calves provided with adequate nutrition exhibited a remarkable ability to adapt to long-term exposure to cold. When compared with calves housed in warmer temperatures, the cold-environment calves had comparable growth rates. This was probably due to increased starter-grain intake. Immune responses for the cold-environment calves were also unaffected. In addition, with the exception of a modest increase in respiratory scores, the health of cold-stressed calves was comparable to that of dairy calves in the warmer environment. Scour scores, days scouring and electrolyte cost were unaffected by environmental temperature.
Read the abstract from the Journal of Dairy Science.