The second step is to feed plenty of high-quality, clean, warm colostrum to warm the calf from the inside.
A third step may be to put the calf in a warm environment until her temperature is back up to 102°F.
Warm rooms work. Commercial calf warmers work. Boxes with heat lamps work. Remember, however, the calves need to go back into their cold environment as soon as their body temperature comes back up to normal. Monitoring calf temperature is a best management practice – calves headed for cold housing need to go there as soon as they get back to “normal” temperature.
How about preweaned calves that have experienced a steady loss of body heat? Feed 102° body temperature milk. Offer equally warm water. Add a calf blanket. If needed, try temporary residence in a warm room (not on a cold wet concrete floor, however). Adding a heat lamp to a hutch can work, too.
Treat hypothermia promptly. Body reserves of energy are severely depleted in cold stressed calves. They will gain weight slowly. Most importantly, their body defenses against infections are likely to be weakened. They need to be watched closely for infections for at least two weeks after a hypothermic event.
Prevention is better than treatment
Minimizing the effects of a hard pull through good calving management practices will help our dystocia calves. Prompt and thorough drying of these calves along with timely colostrum feeding will go a long way to reduce cold stress.
Preweaned calves can stand a lot of cold without developing hypothermia if: (1) we feed enough to meet both maintenance and growth needs, (2) their bedding is clean and dry, (3) they have enough bedding to prevent heat loss down through the bedding, (4) their hair coat is dry, and (5) air movement provides fresh air but does not carry away too much heat.
References: Garry, F.B. and Others, “Dairy Worker Training in Newborn Calf Management” in Proceedings of AABP, 40:33-37; Garry, F.B.,“Non-infectious newborn calf problems and survival” in CVC proceedings accessed 23 Dec10.; Torell, R. and others, ”Care of hypothermic (cold stressed) newborn beef calves” accessed 23 Dec 10 at http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/ag/other/cl788.pdf ; Robinson, B., “Rewarming Chilled Calves,” accessed 23Dec10 at http://www.thebeefsite.com/articles/1262/rewarming-chilled-calves.
Source: Calving Ease, January 2011