Regional Calf Report: Central Minnesota – Jack Hales & Larrie Rosen, Vita Plus

Posted on February 17, 2016 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Jack Hales and Larrie Rosen, Vita Plus dairy specialists
Central Minnesota is experiencing a rather mild winter with occasional blasts of our traditional winters. This change in weather can be tough on animals both inside and out.

The changing weather is causing two major issues. The first challenge is poor air quality, leading to respiratory issues. The second issue is freeze-ups caused by blasts of cold weather.

Respiratory issues
Calf raisers will always battle some level of respiratory issues. These can usually be attributed to overcrowding, inadequate bedding or not removing the bedding pack often enough. Poor air quality is always tough on animals less than six months of age.  We find these issues can usually be corrected by setting up scheduled days for cleaning the pens. If you can change the bedding every seven to 10 days, it will keep you in front of the rising ammonia levels, which usually get too strong at 14 days.

Water freeze-ups
This winter has caused a lot of freeze-ups because it was mild in the beginning and then, when we get these blasts of cold weather, they usually catch us off guard.

Water is important for the calf as it helps start the growth of rumen.  A rule of thumb is that, for every 1 pound of grain you are trying to get into a calf, you should feed about 4 pounds of water.

We see this problem show up in superhutches where water is sometimes limited due to availability. We try to remember that, if we have eight animals in a superhutch and they are eating 8 pounds of grain, we need to get about 30 gallons of water to these eight animals.

Thinking ahead
As you look at the future and opportunities to improve your calf facility, think about how you can control your respiratory issues by getting better air quality. This can sometimes be done simply by placing gates in a different location and allowing for easier, more frequent cleaning. Remember, if the chore is a cumbersome task, it’s more likely that it will not get done. Also, look for waterer locations that will protect them from the freeze-ups.

We took a look back at a calf study our team conducted in 2014 and found these issues were the same limiting issues affecting calves at that time.  We need to remember that good air quality helps prevent respiratory issues and good, clean water will give you rumen development – two critical items for the growing calf.

Category: Facility design
Starting Strong - Calf Care