5 Tips to Help Calves Beat Summer Heat

5 Tips to Help Calves Beat Summer Heat
6/29/2017

The following five tips to help calves combat heat stress this summer:

1. Provide clean, fresh water. The most important aspect of summertime calf raising is to provide free-choice, fresh water. Calves exposed to heat stress can consume up to 3-6 gal. of water each day. It is important to check the availability and cleanliness of water a few times daily.

2. Adapt calf housing. Modifying calves’ environment is one of the best ways to protect them from the weather. Reducing sun exposure can help keep calves cool as temperatures rise. Calf hutches and shelters that completely block the sun are better for keeping calves cool than opaque shelters.

3. Keep calf starter fresh. Closely monitor calf starter freshness during hot weather to avoid mold growth or leaving excessive fines in the bucket. If possible, there should be a solid partition or enough space between the water and grain buckets to prevent calves from transferring water into the grain bucket.

4. Cut the stress. Stressful events can include moving, grouping new calves together, vaccinating or dehorning. Plan to perform stressful events in the morning. Evening temperatures may seem cool, but animals' body temperature lags the environmental temperature by four to six hours, making morning hours the best time to work with calves.

5. Know the signs of dehydration. Three key areas can help determine if a calf is becoming dehydrated. First, sunken eyes indicate that the calf is likely dehydrated, as its eyes should appear bright and not sunken into its head. Second, dehydration may be determined using pinch tests: Grab a fold of skin on the calf’s neck, and squeeze it together to make a tent. Once the “pinch” of skin is released, it should go back to normal in two seconds or less. If the skin stays pinched longer, the calf is experiencing dehydration. Third, behavior may indicate the hydration level, because if a calf is sluggish, slow to eat or slow to respond during feeding time, it may be dehydrated.

If calves show any signs of dehydration, it is important to begin feeding electrolytes to help restore hydration. Electrolyte supplements do not contain all of the nutrients of milk replacer, so be sure to offer electrolytes in addition to the calf’s normal diet.

Article is out of the Feedstuffs publication, June 2017

Tags: Calves, Heat Stress, Management Tips