Towel Drying Calves Helps Combat Cold Stress

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Cold stress can have dire consequences when calves three weeks old or younger experience temperatures below 59℉. Too much or too little ventilation and inadequate supply and temperature of nutrition provided are factors that exacerbate cold stress, especially in young calves. 

 With newborns, cold stress is more likely where prolonged births occur. Dystocia may tire or weaken calves which can cause them to take longer than normal to stand or nurse. Calves born in extremely cold and wet or windy conditions also are more likely to become chilled and cold stressed. Subsequent respiratory or digestive issues may develop if calves are not warm and dry at the start.

In severe cold temperatures, calves benefit greatly from being dried off with a clean and dry towel. This helps the hair coat provide better insulation and prevents chilling from drafts. In addition to drying calves with a towel, some producers choose to move calves to a warming area to optimize warming.

The thermal images below compare two newborn calves. Warmer temperatures are indicated by the red hues, and green and blue indicate cooler body temperatures. The calf on the left is still wet, and its nose, ears, and limbs are colder. The calf on the right has been dried off and the thermal image reveals it is much warmer in comparison to the other calf.

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Source: Progressive Farmer Magazine

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