Charlie Stoltenow: Prepare for cold weather and minimize cold stress in newborn calves | TSLN.com

Charlie Stoltenow: Prepare for cold weather and minimize cold stress in newborn calves

Calves that are severely chilled at birth, without immediate assistance to warm/dry them and make sure they ingest colostrum in a timely manner, have poor survival rates. If a calf gets too cold before it suckles, it may not be able to get the teat in its mouth, and does not obtain crucial energy needed to keep warm, or antibodies to protect it against disease. The calf’s ability to absorb antibodies from colostrum also diminishes as it becomes colder.

Dr. Charles Stoltenow, associate professor and Extension Livestock Program Director with North Dakota State University, says producers need to be prepared for cold weather and try to minimize cold stress, rather than just trying to deal with cold calves. “The number-one thing we talk about with our producers is the effect of wind and wet,” he says. Dry cold is not as hard on baby calves as being wet.

“The cow should be on an increasing plane of nutrition in late pregnancy for optimum milk production. Stockmen need to make sure cattle have enough windbreaks in the calving area, and good drainage, so there are no puddles. Often calves get hypothermia due to the freeze/thaw cycle. As far north as we are, we have to get calves up off the cold, frozen ground,” he says. If there’s no old grass, they’ll need bedding.

“You can bed with straw or old hay to help keep calves warm. It’s often better to sacrifice that old hay to keep calves warm, rather than thinking you need to feed it to cows. You have to think preventatively. After calves have suffered frostbite, it’s too late. After they’ve been in the rain for three days, it’s too late.”

Cold stress depends on location, too. “If you can calve cows on pasture in the spring with windbreaks, you can do fairly well. But if you’re in an area where you have to drylot the cows and don’t have a lot of room, you must think about windbreaks and cover,” he says.

“I’m not a big fan of calving barns. They can be nice and warm, but using a barn means we are congregating all these animals in what we call a pinch-point in the system,” says Stoltenow. If it’s warm in the barn, it’s usually too humid, possibly leading to pneumonia in young calves.

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“If you get a pathogen in there like E.coli, Salmonella, corona-virus or rotavirus, you’re exposing all the calves. If you use calving barns, cleanliness is next to godliness,” he says. Never leave calves in the barn more than 12-24 hours – just long enough to be completely dry and nursing their mothers – and never put a sick animal in the calving barn. Always use a separate facility for sick calves.

“You have to think about calving from a biosecurity standpoint. You need a sick pen or a sick barn. Sick animals should not be in a calving barn, nor get mixed back in with the general population until they are recovered. Ranchers need to look at the Sandhills calving system, spreading the cattle out,” he says. By moving the calving area to new ground it minimizes contamination and prevents a lot of illness.

Calves that are severely chilled at birth, without immediate assistance to warm/dry them and make sure they ingest colostrum in a timely manner, have poor survival rates. If a calf gets too cold before it suckles, it may not be able to get the teat in its mouth, and does not obtain crucial energy needed to keep warm, or antibodies to protect it against disease. The calf’s ability to absorb antibodies from colostrum also diminishes as it becomes colder.

Dr. Charles Stoltenow, associate professor and Extension Livestock Program Director with North Dakota State University, says producers need to be prepared for cold weather and try to minimize cold stress, rather than just trying to deal with cold calves. “The number-one thing we talk about with our producers is the effect of wind and wet,” he says. Dry cold is not as hard on baby calves as being wet.

“The cow should be on an increasing plane of nutrition in late pregnancy for optimum milk production. Stockmen need to make sure cattle have enough windbreaks in the calving area, and good drainage, so there are no puddles. Often calves get hypothermia due to the freeze/thaw cycle. As far north as we are, we have to get calves up off the cold, frozen ground,” he says. If there’s no old grass, they’ll need bedding.

“You can bed with straw or old hay to help keep calves warm. It’s often better to sacrifice that old hay to keep calves warm, rather than thinking you need to feed it to cows. You have to think preventatively. After calves have suffered frostbite, it’s too late. After they’ve been in the rain for three days, it’s too late.”

Cold stress depends on location, too. “If you can calve cows on pasture in the spring with windbreaks, you can do fairly well. But if you’re in an area where you have to drylot the cows and don’t have a lot of room, you must think about windbreaks and cover,” he says.

“I’m not a big fan of calving barns. They can be nice and warm, but using a barn means we are congregating all these animals in what we call a pinch-point in the system,” says Stoltenow. If it’s warm in the barn, it’s usually too humid, possibly leading to pneumonia in young calves.

“If you get a pathogen in there like E.coli, Salmonella, corona-virus or rotavirus, you’re exposing all the calves. If you use calving barns, cleanliness is next to godliness,” he says. Never leave calves in the barn more than 12-24 hours – just long enough to be completely dry and nursing their mothers – and never put a sick animal in the calving barn. Always use a separate facility for sick calves.

“You have to think about calving from a biosecurity standpoint. You need a sick pen or a sick barn. Sick animals should not be in a calving barn, nor get mixed back in with the general population until they are recovered. Ranchers need to look at the Sandhills calving system, spreading the cattle out,” he says. By moving the calving area to new ground it minimizes contamination and prevents a lot of illness.

Calves that are severely chilled at birth, without immediate assistance to warm/dry them and make sure they ingest colostrum in a timely manner, have poor survival rates. If a calf gets too cold before it suckles, it may not be able to get the teat in its mouth, and does not obtain crucial energy needed to keep warm, or antibodies to protect it against disease. The calf’s ability to absorb antibodies from colostrum also diminishes as it becomes colder.

Dr. Charles Stoltenow, associate professor and Extension Livestock Program Director with North Dakota State University, says producers need to be prepared for cold weather and try to minimize cold stress, rather than just trying to deal with cold calves. “The number-one thing we talk about with our producers is the effect of wind and wet,” he says. Dry cold is not as hard on baby calves as being wet.

“The cow should be on an increasing plane of nutrition in late pregnancy for optimum milk production. Stockmen need to make sure cattle have enough windbreaks in the calving area, and good drainage, so there are no puddles. Often calves get hypothermia due to the freeze/thaw cycle. As far north as we are, we have to get calves up off the cold, frozen ground,” he says. If there’s no old grass, they’ll need bedding.

“You can bed with straw or old hay to help keep calves warm. It’s often better to sacrifice that old hay to keep calves warm, rather than thinking you need to feed it to cows. You have to think preventatively. After calves have suffered frostbite, it’s too late. After they’ve been in the rain for three days, it’s too late.”

Cold stress depends on location, too. “If you can calve cows on pasture in the spring with windbreaks, you can do fairly well. But if you’re in an area where you have to drylot the cows and don’t have a lot of room, you must think about windbreaks and cover,” he says.

“I’m not a big fan of calving barns. They can be nice and warm, but using a barn means we are congregating all these animals in what we call a pinch-point in the system,” says Stoltenow. If it’s warm in the barn, it’s usually too humid, possibly leading to pneumonia in young calves.

“If you get a pathogen in there like E.coli, Salmonella, corona-virus or rotavirus, you’re exposing all the calves. If you use calving barns, cleanliness is next to godliness,” he says. Never leave calves in the barn more than 12-24 hours – just long enough to be completely dry and nursing their mothers – and never put a sick animal in the calving barn. Always use a separate facility for sick calves.

“You have to think about calving from a biosecurity standpoint. You need a sick pen or a sick barn. Sick animals should not be in a calving barn, nor get mixed back in with the general population until they are recovered. Ranchers need to look at the Sandhills calving system, spreading the cattle out,” he says. By moving the calving area to new ground it minimizes contamination and prevents a lot of illness.

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