January 12, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Using jackets on beef calves

Interpretive Summary: The effect of calf jackets on the health, performance, and skin temperature of dairy origin beef calves

By: Jackie Walling 

The thermoregulatory systems of newborn calves are immature. This leaves the animal susceptible to climatic extremes and cold stress. Calf jackets can provide protection against environmental conditions. Researchers of this December 2019 Translational Animal Science article investigated the effects of calf jackets on health, performance, and skin temperature of dairy-origin beef calves.

The study lasted a year and used five batches of calves transported from their origin farms to a single beef farm. The calves were split into four treatment groups: Control (no jacket), arrival (jacket for two weeks after arrival), Weight (jacket for a minimum of two weeks until 65 kg live weight), and weaning (jacket until five days after weaning).

The estimated minimum temperature calves can handle is 8⁰C. One group (Batch 4) had mean temperatures below that level. All batches varied significantly from each other regarding start weight, daily live weight gain, days on milk, total milk replacer intake, and daily milk replacer. There was no significant interaction between batches and treatments, or between treatments and calf health. There was a significant relationship between the temperature-humidity index and skin temperature. The mean skin temperature of calves with jackets was higher than those without jackets.

The varied differences between batches were the result of several factors. These include differences in sourced farms, neonatal care, transportation stress, disease exposure, and genetics. Some calves may have already been acclimatized, or ambient temperatures may not have been extreme enough to cause cold stress. Overall, calf jackets and the duration they were worn did not affect calf performance or health during this study, but they did warm skin temperature. Skin temperature, however, is not proven to affect core body temperature. For the full article, visit Translational Animal Science.