As the temperatures start to dip, we need to keep our babies warm! We milk cows 365 days a year. In order to do this babies have to be born all year long.
Calves are born with very little fat on their bodies. During warm temperatures this is not much of an issue. Baby cows, just like baby humans, gain weight quickly.
For the first seven weeks of their lives our calves are fed a rich diet of milk replacer (think baby formula) and a starter grain. Both of these are very high in fat and protein to promote quick growth. Calves who grow quickly tend to be healthier. They have even done studies showing calves who have a higher rate of gain will produce more milk as cows.
When temperatures begin to dip calves, like any other animal, will burn fat to stay warm. We want to prevent this. On our farm we have a goal of each baby gaining right around 1.75 pounds a day. If they start to burn body fat to stay warm, their daily rate of gain will drop quickly.
Once the temperature begins to regularly dip below 50 degrees we start to take measures to keep our babies warmer. The first is lots of dry bedding. Our calves have straw fluffed for them on a daily basis. In cooler months we keep the straw deep for extra warmth. While this is a simple and great approach, we take a few more steps.
Mid-fall their diet slightly changes. The company that makes our calf feed has realized how much cold weather can effect our calves rate of gain. They change their formula to suit the season. In late fall thru early spring the starter and milk replacer contain a higher percentage of fat. This enables us to feed the same amount of feed, but get more calories in to our calves.
The last thing we do is give the babies calf jackets. Yes, you read correctly. We place jackets on our calves. This gives them an extra layer of warmth, just like when you wear a coat. A calf jacket is made of a soft vinyl so it doesn’t soak up moisture and has a middle layer of batting for insulation. All of our babies get these toasty coats once temps start to drop.
So what do calves in these calf jackets look like? Pretty cute if you ask me!
When things start to cool off, we need to keep our babies warm! These are just some of the steps we take to help keep everyone a little warmer when old man winter hits. Now if they could only enjoy a hot cocoa!