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Rearing calves during the cold months

- In climate zones with warm summers and cold and humid winters, it is wise to pay extra attention to the rearing of the calves. Especially during the cold period calves often are more sensitive to various diseases, including disorders of the gastrointestinal system, as well as disorders relating to the lungs, runny noses, coughing and the flu.

The biggest risk during this period is caused by humidity and draught. Viruses and bacteria often develop aggressively in a humid environment. This makes calves vulnerable for infection and they easily infect one another. The second cause, aside from humidity, is draught. Draught is an airflow entering the barn at a temperature lower than the current temperature in the barn. Because the air is colder it quickly drops and thus often ends up on top of the calves. A calf that is growing rapidly, and therefore produces heat, can easily catch a cold and develops flu-like symptoms.

High quality colostrum is of vital importance

To ensure that calves experience fewer problems during this period, the provision of high quality colostrum first and foremost is of vital importance. High quality colostrum contains plenty of antibodies and protects the calf during the first period. High quality colostrum is created by a cow in a proper dry period. At De Heus we work with a range of Dairy feeds which optimally prepares the cow in her dry period to produce enough litres of high-quality colostrum at the time of calving. With this colostrum we provide for the required initial resistance. Aside from the colostrum we can also increase the level of resistance through means of vaccinations. In particular the vaccination of dry cows against various viruses, such as the Rota and Corona virus, is effective against these pathogens in the calf. Here too the calf receives the antibodies via the colostrum of the vaccinated cow.

If the basics are not in order, this creates poor initial conditions giving pathogens a better chance.

The basis for healthy animals

In addition to the effect of the colostrum, a number of other elements are of major importance. If these basic elements are not in order, this creates poor initial conditions giving pathogens a better chance to infect your cows. The first basic element is hygiene. Keeping things clean and tidy works to the detriment of pathogens. Things that come to mind here are the drinking utensils and the pens. Furthermore, be sure to refresh the feed each day. In addition to keeping things clean, it is also important to keep things dry. Fewer pathogens grow in a dry environment.

The second element is ventilation. We define ventilation as the exhaust of old spent air and its replacement with fresh air. Fresh air contains a great deal of oxygen and is clean. Take a look at the ventilation in your calf stable. Ask yourself if it provides for the supply and exhaust of fresh air. In other words: where is the fresh air intake and where is the old spent air exhausted? And in addition: how does the air enter? Is there a risk of draught? Is there a micro climate? Take the opportunity to review these matters with a De Heus’ cattle specialist.

The third element is the supply of feed: Are the animals fed the right way? Is the proportion of artificial milk up to par? Is sufficient fresh water, feed concentrates and roughage available for the calf? Many problems, including diarrhea, are caused by the preparation and feeding of milk. Carefully check the schedule to see which calves needs to be fed and make sure that the temperature and quantities are correct. During the winter months and at temperatures below 10 degrees you can adjust the concentration somewhat, from 125 to 145 grams per liter in a solution of water. At the drinking dispenser, increase the concentration from 140-145 grams to 160 grams per liter.

In everything you do during the rearing period try to work preventively and especially be very observant and clarify what is happening. This helps prevent illnesses and feeding errors, and thus prevents stagnated growth.

Do you have a question? Please contact one of your local Dairy Specialist or use the ‘ask your question’ box on this page.

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