Ask the Expert: Ann Hoskins – Extra Energy in the Winter

Posted on November 5, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
Q:  What is the best way to get extra energy into my calves in cold weather?
Environmental factors can have major effects on the energy requirement of young calves. Newborn calves are particularly vulnerable to temperature changes. The newborn calf has a thermoneutral zone that falls between 55 and 77 degrees F. This means calves don’t need to use extra energy to maintain body temperature. However, as the weather turns colder, the calf needs more calories to provide additional energy for warmth. If those energy needs are not met, calves will lose body weight and have suppressed immune systems.
It is estimated that calves need about 32 percent more energy between the temperatures of 25 and 55 degrees F just for maintenance. Here are some options for winter feeding:
Increase Volume
To meet increased energy needs, feed an 85-pound calf 2.5 quarts twice daily rather than the standard 2 quarts fed at other times of the year.
Increase Milk Replacer Powder:Water Ratio
The second choice applies to those farms feeding milk replacer and it is to increase the amount of powder while keeping the liquid constant (not to exceed 15 percent solids).
Supplement to Increase Energy Density
Another option is to increase the energy density of the diet with Vita Plus Calf Energize. Calf Energize contains 60 percent fat and 7 percent protein. It is added to milk or milk replacer (2 ounces per calf per day). Calf Energize is easy mixing and easy to use. Keeping the mix consistent is key to using supplemental fat.
Add an Extra Feeding
Although sometimes hard to schedule, a very effective solution for very young calves and zero-degree weather is a mid-day feeding. This feeding is only for calves under 3 weeks of age or calves not consuming enough calf starter.
Feed about 1.5 quarts extra (approximately a 33-percent increase over the 4.5 quarts per day normally fed.) Try to spread the feedings as close to an 8-hour feeding schedule as possible. If you cram the feedings too close, the calves may not finish their evening meal, leaving them most susceptible during the coldest and longest part of the day.
Remember that when feeding more energy to calves, starter intake may decrease or delay intake in younger calves. It is still important to provide fresh starter and warm water to calves in cold temperatures.
Successful calf care in the winter relies on two keys:
  • Consuming 2 to 3 pounds of starter a day for three consecutive days prior to weaning
  • Providing enough energy to meet their increased needs
Please contact your local Vita Plus representative or dealer to discuss the best winter feeding option for your operation.

Category: Calf and heifer nutrition
Starting Strong - Calf Care
Winter calf care