Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hard Calving and Cold Weather
 
 Calves experiencing difficult deliveries may need extra attention in cold weather conditions. Christine Murray, University of Guelph, presented " Newborn Calf Vitality: Risk factors, characteristics, assessment, resulting outcomes and strategies for improvement" at the Calf Congress 2013: Growing the Next Generation, RIT Inn and Conference Center, Rochester NY December 4-5, 2013.
 
As part of her presentation Ms. Murray talked about problems with thermoregulation among dystocia or hard delivery calves. She observed these calves may experience:
  • Depending on the degree of stress, calving environment and season of birth, maintaining homeostasis can be challenging.
  • Decreased available energy needed for the mobilization and metabolic activity of brown adipose tissue [fat] during non-shivering thermgenesis.
  •  Reduced muscle tonicity, preventing shivering.
  • Less able to withstand cold stress.
 Thus, we can conclude that extra measures to get these dystocia calves dry and into a modified (warmer than outdoors) environment should improve survival rates. Let's think about:
  • Getting the calf dry. For a resource on drying calves, click HERE
  • Having available a space that is above freezing - maybe a hutch with a heat lamp, a purchased box with a heater and fan - to house the calf for at least the first few hours after birth.
  • Using a calf blanket. For a resource on calf blankets, click Blankets
  • Feeding plenty of high quality WARM colostrum within the first two hours after birth.
  • Bedding her pen/hutch with plenty of long straw so she can nest. If in an open pen setting, providing something like a small square bale of straw to nest against.
  • Feeding an extra meal for the first week to push up milk intake by 20 to 30 percent.
 These few extras may make the difference between life and death for these thermoregulation-challenged calves. 

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