Regional Calf Report: Western Michigan – Maddie Culbertson, North Central Co-op

Posted on June 25, 2015 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Maddie Culbertson, North Central Co-op dairy specialist
With another cold winter behind us, I am happy to report calves in our region came through the harsh conditions thriving.  With nightmares of the winter of 2013-14 lingering, many producers had a heightened awareness of the implications cold stress can have on the future herd.  Modified management practices, such as the incorporation of higher-energy diets accomplished by higher feeding rates, three times per day feedings and fat supplementation with Calf Energize, along with improved winter bedding protocols, have resulted in a spring full of healthy calves.

Another factor that may be attributable to healthier calves this spring is the influx in installation of positive pressure tube ventilation in calf barns in our area.  Ventilation tubes are designed to supplement natural ventilation (as opposed to recirculating air) without creating drafty conditions.  Ideally, and when designed properly, ventilation tubes will deliver a small amount of fresh air to each calf and complete four interior air volume changes per hour.

Following the installation of tube ventilation, many producers are reporting a significant decrease in the incidence of respiratory health events and treatments in calves.  As design flaws are not uncommon with these ventilation systems, please contact your Vita Plus consultant or dealer for resources to help customize the best layout for your facility.

As summer sets in and temperatures rise, fresh air delivery by ventilation tubes may be well complemented with recirculating fans to help cool calves.  To help improve air quality and flow in warmer months, consider pens with open fronts and backs for calves in barns or propping up hutch corners for calves in outdoor hutches.  Offer shade to calves wherever possible.  Try to place hutches in the shade with all vents open.  Mesh shade cloth hung over hutch run-outs or along sidewalls in calf barns has worked well in providing shade and offering some fly control for producers in our area.

As with any season, observe calves closely in summer months for signs of heat stress, including lethargy, rapid respiration and decreased appetite.  Provide calves with unlimited cool, clean water and be diligent with your fly control program.  Consider feed-through fly control products, such as ClariFly®, in milk replacer and starter feed.  Lastly, remember summer bedding protocols.  Test the bedding by kneeling for 30 seconds; if your knees get dirty or wet, add more bedding.

Category: Facility design
Starting Strong - Calf Care