Colder Temperatures Increase Feed Requirements for Calves

Calves have increased nutrients requirements when the air temperature drops below 10 °C (50°F). At colder air temperatures, calves must utilize energy to maintain body temperature that would otherwise go to growth. Calves that are under 3 weeks of age need additional feed to compensate when the air temperature is below 15°C-20°C.

A quick rule of thumb for calves over 3 weeks of age is that one additional litre of milk replacer is needed for each 10 °C decrease in air temperature below 10°C. For calves under 3 weeks, one additional litre is needed for each 10 °C air temperature decrease below 20°C.

For older calves, 0.5 kg of grain mix or calf starter for each 10 °C decrease in temperature below 10°C will provide the additional energy required by calves at the cooler temperatures.

The table below is for calves that are dry, well bedded and kept out of drafts. If not, the feed requirement will be even higher in cold temperatures.

Additional Feed Requirements Needed by Calves During Cold Weather
Temperature °C 50 kg calf;
under 3 weeks
Additional Milk Replacer (Litres)
50 kg calf;
over 3 weeks Additional Milk Replacer (Litres)
75 kg calf;
Additional Milk Replacer (Litres)
Weaned calves;
Calf Starter or Grain Mix (Kg)
20 °C 0 0 0 0
10 °C 1 0 0 0
0 °C 2 1 1.5 0.5
-10 °C 3 2 3 1

*20% protein, 20% fat Milk Replacer mixed at 125g per litre, (Adapted from NRC 2001 Nutrient Requirements for Dairy Cattle and 1996 NRC Nutrient Requirements for Beef Cattle)

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: Brian Lang - Veal Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 03 January 2008
Last Reviewed: 27 June 2008