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Coats, Bedding, Clean Air on Cold Nights

As promised in our recent  Calf Care & Disease PreventionThermoneutral Zone article, we’re following up with more techniques for calf care and disease prevention to ensure your calves are warm this winter.
Cold nights can be especially brutal on young dairy cows, so make sure to address their needs before it’s too late. The most common calf care and disease prevention practices involve colostrum/milk supplements, calf coats, thick straw bedding, heated drinking water, and slower full volume airflow.

Nesting scores of 2 or higher are crucial to your calf’s health.

Aside from calf coats, bedding is the next most efficient way to keep your calves warm.Straw or long stemmed hay is the warmest and most absorbent bedding type. Studies from the University of Wisconsin determined health of calves with different levels of bedding and created a scoring system for bedding. A nesting score of 3 is ideal for newborn calves in the winter. Ideally when the calf nests you will not be able to see their legs. If your calves wear jackets, a nesting score of 2 is acceptable. To find out what your nesting score is, visit: UW Research.

About 12 inches of straw is recommended. Per 1000 pounds of animal, there should be approximately 25 pounds of bedding. Change bedding regularly to curtail ammonia exposure.

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If you’re not using calf huts, ventilating your barn is the safest way to keep calves healthy and warm, prevent cold stress and hoof problems as well as prevent damage to membranes from ammonia exposure.

When it comes to ventilation systems, 3 details are important to consider:

  • Is the volume of fresh air input at it’s maximum?
  • Is the speed of the incoming air causing calves to shiver?
  • Is the flow direction accurately reaching the calves (4 ft off the ground)?

Determining the effectiveness of your air flow speed and direction will keep your calves warmer in winter. Maintaining full volume air flow entails they’re receiving the proper fresh air intake.

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Bettermilk Holstein calf coats are made to prevent your calf from shivering on those cold days and nights. This affordable, ruggedly constructed coat comes with a Rip-Stop, water-repellant outer shell insulated with Hollofil. (Hollofil is the same material used in popular outdoor apparel and sleeping bags and is well known in the industry). The coat’s adjustable straps are triple-stitched, highly durable and stretchable to accommodate large animals–including goats, sheep, dogs, and other sizable creatures. The Large (Holstein) coat measures 35 inches long by 14.5 inches wide and is designed to fit a Holstein calf through its first 6 weeks of life.