Regional Calf Report: Western Michigan – Mark Case, Vita Plus
By Mark Case, Vita Plus dairy specialist
Whew! What a rough winter!
Here in Michigan, we are glad that spring has finally sprung and we don’t have to worry about severe cold until next winter. The producers in my area asked a lot of questions about how to get calves through the bitter, cold weather. Calf management basics were really important, especially with more stress on the calves causing lower immunity.
Getting more energy into the calf was really important. I suggested that calves were fed either 2 quarts of milk three times a day or 3 quarts of milk twice daily to get more calories into the calf. Producers also added Calf Energize to the milk replacer to increase energy.
I also stressed calf jackets and deep bedding with straw so calves could nest to keep warm.
One of my producers made warming huts out of calf hutches with plywood doors and heat lamps. Newborn calves were immediately dried off and put into the warming huts so that they were not chilled after calving.
I had a lot of questions about sick calves because cold stress can cause a drop in immunity. Management of the newborn calf was a big topic, and we stressed the importance of getting 4 quarts of good quality colostrum into the calf as soon as possible. This helps ensure the dam’s immunity is passed to the calf. Brix refractometers or colostrometers are useful tools to help determine quality of the colostrum. It is also helpful to have a system to manage colostrum harvesting and storing so that the calf gets good quality colostrum with a low bacteria load.
Clean bedding in the maternity pen and dipping navels with 7-percent iodine was also discussed to help lower the exposure to pathogens.
Now we have shifted gears and are getting ready to manage heat stress and flies. Some of the mills I work with that make their own calf starters have included ClariFly in the feed. I will start having conversations about keeping water in front of calves to keep them hydrated, which will, in turn, help keep them healthy.
Starting Strong - Calf Care
Winter calf care