Regional Calf Report: Eastern Wisconsin – Lauryn Krentz, Vita Plus
It was an unseasonably warm fall with a fair amount of wet weather here in eastern Wisconsin. Many producers struggled in November because of varying temperatures and rain. Calves housed outside in hutches frequently had wet bedding and feed while those housed indoors experienced respiratory issues from the humidity and fluctuating temperatures. In calf and heifer barns with curtains, it was hard to know when to raise and lower the curtains to adjust for the rapidly changing weather. On top of this odd weather, farms without a dedicated calf team had limited time to focus on calves while they finished field work in the small windows of opportunity available to them.
Winter is upon us and many producers have geared up for the change. When it comes to bedding, a thick bed of straw with sawdust underneath seems to work best. The sawdust does a good job absorbing moisture, while the straw allows the calf to keep warm by nesting.
Talon has been a popular choice when it comes to milk replacer in eastern Wisconsin. Though some producers elected to remain on Talon even through the summer months, the high-energy milk replacer has generated more interest recently. Those producers who have switched over have seen improvements in calf performance and reduced treatments despite the less-than-ideal weather.
Calf jackets were another discussion point on many of my farms. With chilly temperatures, the youngest calves especially need the extra layer to keep warm. The rule of thumb I shared was, if the high and low temperatures of the day add up to less than 90 degrees, a calf under three weeks of age should wear a jacket. Make sure the jackets fit your calves correctly. If they are too tight, they will rub the calves uncomfortably and potentially cause respiratory issues if they put unnecessary pressure on a calf’s trachea.
Water feeding remains important in freezing temperatures. Though you want to avoid frozen water buckets, it is also critical to offer water to calves as much as possible. When freezing is a possibility, water should be offered within an hour of feeding and, if possible, three times per day. Remember, a calf needs approximately 4 pounds of water to digest 1 pound of starter.
Mild as this fall was, winter has come to stay. Making a few management adjustments now will help grow happy, healthy calves and secure the future of our herds.
Starting Strong - Calf Care
Winter calf care