As Temperatures Drop – Are you Feeding your Calves Enough?

Cold temperatures can affect calf growth rates and increase the risk of disease which can compromise performance. Baby calves (< 3 weeks) are very susceptible to cold temperatures. The lower critical temperature for calves less than three weeks is 10-15°C, while for older calves it is 6-10°C, although these are very dependent on air speed and environment. Lower temperatures require calves to use more energy to maintain their body temperature, reducing the energy available for growth.  

Pre-weaned calves have very low energy reserves, usually less than one day’s needs, so they are almost totally dependent on energy supplied in the feed.  If energy supply is insufficient, and intake is used to keep warm, calves will lose weight. Weight loss can be critical as calves are born with roughly 3-4% of their body weight as fat.  It they are in negative energy balance for more than 3-5 days the risk of mortality is greatly increased.  While energy loss can be reduced by using calf jackets, it will probably be necessary to increase feed rates of milk replacer; preferably feeding more volume of milk as opposed to feeding more grams of milk replacer per day.  Caution is needed when increasing the concentration of milk replacer as a way to boost total intakes, mixing more than 150g to make one litre can result in excessive mineral uptake which can cause digestive upsets. Increasing feeding from twice a day to three times a day in cold spells will provide the extra energy calves require while minimising digestive upsets. 

DBL are suppliers of high quality milk replacers from Trouw Nutrition’s Milkivit Range.  Their calf milk replacers are formulated to be highly digestible to the calf - vegetable oils only (palm/coconut) and are safe to be fed at high levels. They are designed to be fed at between 125-150g to make one  litre, and in cold weather volume should be increased not concentration. 

Available in the skim milk powder range:  

Milkivit Energized Calf Milk is a high quality 50% skim powder made with 100% dairy proteins. Being 22.5% protein and 25% oil this high fat powder has been developed with whole milk as the biological reference; the best of whole milk combined with the best of CMR.

Milkivit Optimizer is a 23% protein and 21% oil energy dense, high quality skimmed milk-based product. Excellent digestibility supports optimal development allowing the genetic potential of the calf to be captured.

Milkivit Rearing is a 23% protein and 17% oil digestible skimmed milk-based product that supports elevated levels of feeding to allow calves to achieve excellent performance.

Skimmed milk forms a casein clot which acts a slow release energy bullet, helping calves fight the cold and focus on growing. 

Available in the whey powder range:  
Milkivit Elevate is a highly digestible high energy whey based 23% protein and 21% oil.

Premium XL
is a versatile whey based milk replacer that supports strong, cost effective growth and development and is 22% protein and 17% oil.

Whey powders form globular whey proteins that are readily digestible to the calf and are fast acting, helping calves fight the cold and focus on growing.   

As part of your cold calf action plan, consider: 

Calf jackets: these can be used to help keep calves warm, dry and healthy when temperatures fall below 10°C (best put on from birth). 

Winter illness  

  • Feed recommended levels of high quality milk replacers and keep calves healthy and strong to fight off immune pressures of winter illness (pneumonia and scour)  

Milk replacer 

  • If milk replacer is not increased to compensate for winter, both growth rate and immunity will be compromised, volume over grams.  


  • Do not mix more than 150g of milk replacer made up to 1 litre with water, as this will result in excessive mineral intake and potential digestive upset. 


  • Feeding more volume not higher concentrations 
  • Increasing feeding from 2x a day to 3x a day (ensure adequate time between 3 feeds) 

If you would like assistance with your calf feeding, please contact
Louise Cox on 07943 684215 or e-mail