Cool down those calves

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This Tip of the Week has been brought to you by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association (DCHA).

The impact of high temperatures on calf health and well-being is a concern shared by calf and heifer growers across the country. Calves suffering from heat stress may experience growth rate issues and potentially develop health concerns. Further consequences may include rapid dehydration, a weakened immune system and even death.   

A combination of high ambient temperatures, high humidity and low wind speeds can create dangerous conditions for livestock. Look for the following symptoms to determine if your calves are suffering from heat stress:

  • Reduced movement
  • Decreased feed intake
  • Increased water consumption
  • Desire for more shade
  • Rapid respiration/panting
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Lack of coordination

Although the Temperature-Humidity Index (THI) is used as a reference for heat stress in dairy cows, it can also be used for calves. Calf and heifer growers should keep in mind that calves do best when the temperature is between 55 and 78 degrees.

Some management practices to keep calves healthy during hot and humid weather:

  • Use sand bedding to keep calves cooler.
  • Increase airflow and air exchange to provide adequate fresh air.
  • Feed fresh grain daily to ensure good intakes during the hot weather.
  • Perform stressful activities such as moving and handling early in the morning.
  • Provide ample amounts of cool, clean water to prevent depressed feed intake.
  • Make housing adjustments, such as installing shade over outdoor calf hutches and pens, and other changes that will help lower the impact of high ambient temperatures on calves.


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