Keep Calves Hydrated in the Heat of Summer

Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

High ambient temperature and humidity can lead to heat stress in calves

Dairy farmers know the importance of getting plenty of water to their cows during the hot summer months, but what about your calves? High ambient temperature and humidity can lead to heat stress in calves. In these situations, calf panting, and sweating do not compensate for this stress and calf energy needs will increase which must be supported by adequate nutrition. In addition, as calves attempt to maintain body temperature in the summer months increased respiration and sweating results in water losses which must be replaced. As environmental temperature increases, water intake increases accordingly.

Research indicates that the amount of water needed by nursery calves depends not only on environmental conditions, but on other factors like the incidence of scours and the amount of milk or milk replacer and starter intake. Water intake is closely related to starter intake, but water intake may increase independent of starter intake when temperature is above the Upper Critical Temperature for calves. Research has shown the amount of liquid in milk replacer also affects the amount of water consumed. Water temperature can also affect water intake.

So, what can you do? Keeping your calves hydrated is simple and easy, but it may require a little extra labor during the summer months.

* Make sure your calves always have water. If you notice their bucket is empty, fill it! Check calves several times a day to ensure they have water.

* Keep the water fresh. The calf may still have half her bucket left, but if it has been sitting all day, has feed in it, or is dirty she may not drink it. Aim to give calves fresh water at least twice a day.



* Clean out buckets. Especially if you have a system where grain and water use the same buckets, make sure they all get a thorough cleaning between calves. Residues and germs from other calves can wreak havoc on an already immuno-suppressed calf.

In the summer months, it’s important for every animal on your farm to have adequate access to fresh, clean water. Making sure your calves have enough to drink can help prevent issues now and down the road.

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