Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where Does the Energy Come From
To Dry Off A Calf?

I think we all can agree that when born calves are wet. 

I think we all can agree that dams usually do an acceptable job of cleaning up calves and getting rid of a lot of the birth fluids. One way or another the hair coat of the calf gets dry enough so that the hair stands on end - I call that "fluff dry." Regardless what one calls this state we do know that the rate of heat loss is substantially lower compared to a wet, matted hair coat.

Now, the question is, "Where does the energy come from to complete the job of drying off the calf?" and "Why does this make a difference?"

Under warm and dry environmental conditions much of the "drying off" takes place without drawing heavily on the energy supplies of the calf.

Under cold and damp environmental conditions much of the "drying off" takes place by the transfer of heat from the calf's body to her body surfaces/wet hair coat.

Does this energy drain on the newborn calf make a difference for her subsequent well-being? I claim that using this energy (probably from the brown fat supply with which she was born) in order to get dry should be the subject of our management decision-making.

On my balance sheet I think it is a cost-effective decision to manually dry calves in cold, damp weather rather than put them at increased risk of either death or illness in the subsequent days as a neonate.

For methods and ideas for drying calves click HERE. You will find the Calving Ease newsletter issue devoted to practical tips for manually drying calves. Enjoy.

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