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Helping Dairy Calves Handle the Heat
August 2, 2016

Chazy, NY.  With funding from the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, a project is underway to evaluate ways that dairy farmers can manage calf nutrition to reduce the impact of heat stress on the young animals. According to Ohio State University and the University of Illinois, the economic impact of heat stress can result in annual losses of $253,000 with dairy animals up to 1 year of age in New York State.

During heat stress calves must use more energy to regulate their body temperature. This requires more dietary nutrients.

Project leader Kayla Hultquist with W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, NY, notes, ‘We observed in a previous Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded study that calves decreased their intake of milk replacer and starter grain during times of heat stress. This new project investigates strategies that will encourage calves to increase their caloric intake during hot weather.’

The research team is working with three groups of calves housed in outdoor hutches at the Miner Institute dairy farm in Clinton County. Researchers are evaluating the use of milk replacer supplemented with fat as a way to increase caloric intake without the calves having to consume a larger quantity of milk replacer.

Data collection will include tracing daily milk replacer, starter grain and water intake; weekly weight gain; and hip height and width. Average daily weight gain, feed efficiency, and the economic implications will be calculated. The research team will align observations and measurements of calf behavior and health with temperature and relative humidity to examine any correlating indicators of how well the calves handle heat stress.

Project data will be available by year-end on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website  at www.nnyagdev.org, at the December 2016 Dairy Day at Miner Institute, and at dairy association meetings.

The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program provides grants for on-farm research and technical assistance projects in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.


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