Posted on

Calf Care & Disease Prevention Practices

Why Wear Calf Coats?

On a recent visit to dairy land in central California, this question popped up again and again from dairymen. “It doesn’t get that cold here, why should I cover my calves with calf coats?”

Holstein cow nudging newborn Holstein calf

This is a valid question. If we are comfortable outside in 50 degree weather with a light jacket, shouldn’t newborn calves tolerate that just fine?The answer is a little more complicated…

In the first 6 weeks of life, a calf’s THERMONEUTRAL ZONE is 50-78 degrees Fahrenheit. What is a thermoneutral zone, you say?

The thermoneutral zone is the safe range of temperatures that a calf may be exposed to WITHOUT needing to expend additional energy. Think a no shivering, no sweat zone (see diagram).

Thermoneutral zone graph

Exposure to such stress can increase risk of disease and death, prevent growth and immune system functioning, and affect the calf’s response to treatments as well as overall productivity.

So how can we prevent the calf from getting too cold or too hot?
Let’s address the former as we’re headed into winter. There are a series of techniques which we’ll go into in another article, but let’s focus on 3 simple steps for now.

  • Use Calf Coats
  • Provide Sufficient Quality Bedding
  • Monitor Ventilation in Barn

For more reading on this topic, see our Calf Care Practices Part 2 article.

Bettermilk Holstein Calf Coat

Dairy Herd Magazine “Time to Break Out the Calf Jackets” Excerpt:
A recent study in the United Kingdom compared 40 Holstein calves reared from December through February (2018). Half received calf coats from 2 to 12 weeks of age, and half did not. The researchers found that the calves with calf coats gained an average of 11.68 pounds more than those without.
In addition, the calves with calf coats:

  • Ate less feed, resulting in a savings of about $3.77 per head.
  • Had increased last rib girth measurement, indicating improved rumen development.
  • Had higher fecal scores and a lower incidence of scours.

(M. Hanson 11.18.18)

Newborn calf thanking farmer by licking hand.

If that doesn’t speak to the power of protecting your newborn calves with calf coats, then what will? Shop our Holstein & Jersey Calf Coats now.