Regional Calf Report: Southwest Minnesota – Kevin Caspersen, Vita Plus

Posted on February 28, 2014 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Kevin Caspersen, Vita Plus dairy specialist
As we all know, this winter has been a tough one on people, calves and heifers in the I-29 corridor.  The memorable winter continues with the mercury dipping to zero or below 44 times this winter so far – the most since the winter of 1981-82, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.   The only thing colder in Minnesota this winter was the Vikings offense!

Although a majority of the calves in the I-29 corridor are raised in both hutches and barns, it has been a struggle to maintain good calf health and get decent growth rates.  Most of the energy we have been feeding this winter has gone simply to maintenance.  Calf jackets, deep straw bedding and Calf Energize were absolute necessities this winter as well as extra feedings during the extreme cold stretches.

Because most of the energy that we fed has gone to maintenance, our area has seen increased health problems in calves and heifers.  We have experienced extreme cold, but we have also had some huge temperature swings.  One customer in northwest Iowa experience a 70-degree temperature swing in one week (-20 to 52 degrees F).  These swings have caused significant respiratory issues with calves, especially calves in barns.  Positive pressure ventilation has helped in barns and closely monitoring curtains is extremely important through the winter.  It will be even more important in the upcoming spring temperatures.

Clostridium has also been an issue this winter. It is an opportunistic bug that propagates itself when calves are stressed.  When dealing with clostridium outbreaks, make sure you have the correct solids levels in milk replacers, make sure the temperature of the milk is correct at feeding time, and continually provide fresh, dry straw for nestling.  If you have any doubts as to the solids levels that you are feeding, please contact your Vita Plus consultant to help you determine the solids levels.  If you are feeding whole milk, a refractometer can be useful as well.

Even though it’s been tough to feed water, keep trying to do so at every opportunity you can.  It’s extremely important to get as much warm water into them to encourage dry feed intake and develop a healthy rumen.

Coming into spring, there are a few things every calf raiser should keep in mind.  First, make sure you keep up the energy on these calves.  Even though it is warmer, these calves could still use the energy and the temperatures will still be cool at night.  If it warms up quickly, some of the older calves might need their calf jackets to come off since they might start sweating.  When calves get wet, they can get cold very quickly.  Make sure that the calf starter is dry and mold-free, and it might be good to check the bins after the winter to make sure you don’t have moldy feed hung up in the bins where moisture might have gotten in through the blowing snow.

It’s been a tough winter for sure, but spring will come.  Let’s keep up the energy and get ready for good calf raising ahead!

Category: Animal health
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