Cold Weather Feeding

Nov 02, 2018

With the persistent cold weather that has already been upon us, we thought this may be prudent to run before the real cold weather hits.
During cold weather, newborn and young calves are particularly susceptible to cold stress. Cold stress in calves is caused by environmental factors including lower temperatures and wind chill factors. At 60 degrees F, calves under 21 days of age must increase their energy consumption just to maintain their core body temperature, while the same is true at 42 degrees for calves greater than 21 days-of-age. By implementing a cold weather feeding program that meets these increased energy requirements, producers can keep their calves healthy and growing. 
According to Dr. Tom Earleywine, Director of Nutritional Services at Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products, calves need a great deal of energy to thrive and grow in cold weather.  The increased maintenance requirements of milk-fed calves cannot be met with dry feed alone. Calves do not consume enough dry feed, nor is the rumen developed enough to supply the calf with the needed energy until she is at least six weeks of age. 
“Young calves are the future of the lactating herd, and providing environmental protection in addition to proper feeding is paramount in helping them survive and thrive in cold weather,” says Earleywine. “During cold temperatures, reducing environmental stress factors and meeting higher energy demands with milk or quality milk replacer can be all the difference when it comes to growth potential.”
If you are not currently feeding a third feeding of milk replacer or pasteurized milk consider the benefits of adding an additional helping, especially during cold weather. It is best to feed this third feeding in the evening as it helps the calves to maintain body temperature throughout the night. Additionally, feed efficiency is increased and calves consume more starter prior to weaning than calves fed twice daily. 
What if you can’t do a third feeding? It then becomes necessary to feed as closely to a twelve hour interval as possible and increase the amount of milk replacer you feed. Fat supplements alone do not meet calf needs: 2oz of fat along with a 20-20 milk replacer at 32 degrees will only give you 0.16 lbs of gain a day vs. a plain 20-20 milk replacer at 0 lbs of gain a day. If you increase the overall volume of milk replacer per day of Cows Match ColdFront Formula you will see calves still gaining over 2 lbs a day at 32 degrees. 
To provide calves with an optimal balance of fat and carbohydrates, Land O’Lakes introduced Cow’s Match ColdFront Calf milk replacer. ColdFront contains 26 percent all-milk protein with amino acid supplementation, and 20 percent fat. The fat in ColdFront has an enhanced fatty acid profile that is similar to whole milk and is more efficiently utilized by the calf. It also contains L-carnitine, which is a non-essential amino acid synthesized in the liver and kidneys from lysine and methionine. 
In addition to feeding a higher plane of nutrition in colder weather, calves must be provided with warm water at the calf’s body temperature of 102 degrees F after their morning and afternoon feedings, which will reduce the amount of drain on the calf’s energy reserve to warm it. Providing warm water also drives starter intakes as a calf requires 4 pounds of water for each pound of feed consumed. Provide plenty of dry bedding so the calf can nestle into it and keep warm. Feed over 1.8 lbs of milk replacer powder daily to decrease the chance of calves becoming sick and put calf jackets on a calf to help keep her warm. In extreme cold, calves need at least 2.5 to 3.0 pounds of solids daily just for maintenance. 
Feeding a quality calf starter is also essential to the calves in the winter. Make sure to offer fresh high quality starter daily.

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