Warm weather changes calf management

Heat stress can be a problem for calves that dissipate heat by panting and lose valuable hydration via this route. We need to manage calves to reduce overheating and, at the same time, improve water management. Here are some summertime tips:

Housing is critical. Use shade cloths over rows of calf hutches and prop up the back end of the hutch to facilitate air movement for calves housed indoors. Open windows, lower side curtains and consider fans.

Remove bedding more frequently. Bedding retains heat if excessively soiled with urine and manure.

Water management is crucial. Make sure that water buckets are large enough so that they don't run dry during a 24-hour period. Locate buckets so calves can't spill starter grain into them. Don't expose buckets to direct sunlight which overheats water and encourages algae growth.

Sanitation is critical. Dump water buckets daily to maintain freshness. Wipe buckets with a dilute chlorinated solution at least once a week to reduce alga growth. Don't use the same bucket for milk and water. Milk remaining in the bucket allows bacteria to grow and may encourage organisms responsible for abomasal bloat or other diseases.

Consider more liberal use of electrolyte solutions. In warm weather, calves are more prone to dehydration. Scouring calves should receive oral electrolyte solutions liberally, particularly during mid-day. Administer electrolytes by bottle early in the course of diarrhea because solution absorption is likely to be better than if given by tube.

Keep calf starter fresh. Add as much as they will eat each day, and feed refused starter grain to older heifers.

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association

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