Regional Calf Report: Western Iowa – John Brantsen

Posted on December 26, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By John Brantsen, Vita Plus dairy specialist
December 2012 has brought us some extreme variation in temperatures in northwest Iowa. On December 2, we reached a high temperature of 61 degrees.  On December 10, a little more than a week later, we saw a low temperature of -2 degrees.  Four days later, we were back to highs in the upper 40s.

These extreme swings in temperatures have made calf raising somewhat challenging this month.  With the up-and-down weather, dialing in the ventilation in calf barns is a tough job.

From November to early December, I heard several reports of producers battling clostridium in young calves.  Clostridium often rears its ugly head with a lack of feeding consistency.  However, walking calves and reviewing protocols revealed that, in most cases, producers were doing things right in terms of consistency.

This time, the inconsistent weather may have been contributing to some of the outbreaks.  Just like cows (probably even more so than cows), calves are creatures of habit and really do best when the day-to-day routine does not change.  To calves, changes in the daily routine are stressors.  This is why we often have health and performance challenges in calves when they are exposed to too many changes at once, such as group housing them too closely to weaning,  vaccinating while in the middle of switching feeds, and the list goes on.

As calf raisers, we can control a lot of things to promote consistency, such as monitoring the temperature of the milk that is fed, feeding at same time of the day every day, making sure the milk replacer mixture does not vary from feeding to feeding, etc.

More recently, I have talked to several producers dealing with pneumonia issues, especially in calves housed in barns.  Again, going from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold temperatures and back again makes getting the proper ventilation in barns very challenging.  Calves take a breath every few seconds, so getting the proper air flow in calf barns helps ensure each breath a calf takes is of clean, pathogen-free air.  This is critical in reducing the spread of BRD, but this time of year that’s easier said than done.

One thing we will never be able to control is the weather. That means we need to focus on everything we can control of and make sure the protocols we have in place still make sense and are in the best interest of the calves.  Spending some time now reviewing our calf raising procedures before winter sets in for the next few months will be time well spent.

Category: Starting Strong - Calf Care
Winter calf care