Keeping your calves cosy this Christmas

With calf scours and pneumonia one of the biggest causes of calf death and poor performance, farmers must look at every method available to prevent and treat the problem.

In the past stock persons practising good husbandry skills would have tied jute bags around a sick calf or put it under the heat lamp.

In recent years there has been an increase in sales of special-purpose calf jackets. One of these recently launched into Northern Ireland is the Cosy Calf jacket.

With the use of calf jackets you can make significant savings on feed, medication and bedding costs, by better conversion of energy to growth rather than warmth and reduce the risk of pneumonia and scours from chills and draughts.

Cosy Calf jackets provide optimum protection at low temperatures; they are layered with breathable material to provide insulation along with a water repellent outer surface. The jackets are made to a very high quality and being machine washable means they can be used time and time again.

Dairy calves especially, have been bred for their milk production, not for their temperature tolerance. They often don’t have enough body fat to maintain core body temperature. The thermo-neutral zone is the range of temperatures over which an animal can become acclimatized. For newborn calves (up to four weeks) the lower critical temperature is 10oC and the upper critical temperature is 25oC. For calves after one month of age this temperature range is lower, from 0 – 23oC.

If calves are in an environment outside of these ranges they will have to burn energy in order to maintain a constant body temperature. This energy comes from feed, meaning that much of the food is being used in keeping calves warm instead of growth. For practical reasons feed is often limited to one or two feeds per day, so one way to maximise the effect of the feed is to ensure your calves stay warm.

The Cosy Calf jacket, similar in nature to a horse blanket, which comes in two sizes, has adjustable belly and chest straps, secured with sturdy plastic buckles. The rear leg straps can also be altered to best secure the back of the blanket onto the calf.

Heather Pennington, a farmer from County Armagh purchased her Cosy Calf blankets from Farmline Agricultural Supplies near Dromore. She said: “I put a Cosy Calf blanket on all my young calves for the first few weeks after birth, I am certain they have saved the lives of many them.”

Alan Strain, owner of Farmline Agricultural Supplies said: “Using Cosy Calf blankets definitely demonstrates the gold standard in calf rearing. Beef farmers and dairy farmers alike, even customers with calves in hutches have seen benefits. The majority of our customers using them have come back to buy more and we have received nothing but positive feedback!”