top of page

Feeding Small Calves Through Winter December 8, 2021, contributed by Yaremcio Ag Consulting, Ltd.

A 450 pound calf at this time of year may or may not be weaned. In either case, the total protein requirement for these animals is between 15 and 16%. If the calf is not weaned, milk obtained from the cow contributes to the protein and energy supplied to the calf. Providing a good quality alfalfa grass hay along with a grain mix is recommended for all calves.

Feed test results are needed to determine how to combine the different feeds to provide a balanced ration. To make a 16% creep ration, mix two-thirds barley or oats with one-third peas by weight. Grains do not need to be processed for animals under 700 pounds. They do a good enough job chewing to break the kernels and have a high digestive efficiency.

Smaller animals with lower feed intake and higher body surface area are much more sensitive to colder temperatures. They do not have the ability to retain the energy as efficiently as a mature cow. Unfortunately, heat loss is especially high when the animals are not sheltered from the wind or do not have ample amounts of dry straw to lay in. A wet hair coat or having to lay on wet snow or ground increases heat loss by 25% compared to an animal that is dry and laying on straw.

Having south-facing portable calf shelters is beneficial. These shelters keep the animals out of the wind. The heat from the sun increases the temperature inside the shelter. Providing straw “up to their ears” provides additional insulation as well. Having a small creep feeder or feed trough inside the shelter entices these animals to eat more creep feed.

Small calves can gain two pounds a day over the winter as long as they are protected from the weather and are provided a ration that meets their requirements.

Barry Yaremcio

Ruminant Nutritionist


bottom of page