Now that the "weather outside is frightful" across most of the country, some of you may already be using calf blankets. These help keep calves dryer and minimize heat loss due to radiation into a cold environment. University researchers have found that using blankets on hutch-housed calves from birth to four weeks can result in a significant average daily weight gain. Calf blankets are especially beneficial for the smallest calves housed in greenhouse or pole barns that are more prone to drafts. The colder it gets, the more a calf benefits from wearing a calf blanket, conserving energy for growth and, potentially, immunity and health maintenance.

Here are some suggestions, from Sam Leadley, PhD, Calf & Heifer Management Specialist, Attica Veterinary Associates, to get the most out of your calf blankets:

1. Blankets are more effective when put on dry calves. Aim for a "fluff-dry" hair coat before installing.
2. The drier and cleaner the blanket, the better it will insulate the calf.
3. Aim for bedding that keeps blankets relatively clean and dry.
4. Blankets are most cost-effective for short-term use. With a limited number of blankets, give priority in cold weather to blanketing smaller and younger calves.

The official start of winter is more than a week away. With the recent record snow and cold temperatures across the country, calf blankets, ranging in cost from about $25-$50, may be a perfect gift this Christmas season for your calves.

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association