The influence of bedding material on growth of rearing calves
Young calves (>3 weeks) feel best in temperatures between 15 °C and 25 °C. They need extra energy to keep themselves warm at temperatures below that temperature.
There are a number of ways to support young calves in cold weather and to ensure they do not use too much energy to keep themselves warm. You can give them extra energy in the form of milk, or cover them with a warm bodywarmer. But it is also incredibly important to ensure they have a warm bed.
Type of bedding material influences growth
A study conducted by the Akey Nutrition and Research Centre in Lewisburg Ohio (Hill et al., 2007) showed that the type of bedding material is of great importance in improving the growth of calves. In this study, 48 calves in experiment 1 and 42 calves in experiment 2 were kept on straw and sawdust respectively at temperatures averaging between -9 °C and 2 °C. The calves kept on straw grew 5% to 12% more during the first 8 weeks and had better feed conversion, particularly in the first 3 weeks. These results show that calves kept on straw use the nutrients from milk and solid feed more efficiently for growth and that they lose less energy to maintenance and thermoregulation.
But how do you know if there is enough dry, warm straw in the stall? The “nesting score” is a good way of checking this. This and more information can be found in our information sheet (click here).
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