Feeds success
Management tips Cattle

Raising winter hardy calves with adapted nutrient supply

Kalb im Schnee

Calves fall ill more often in winter than in summer. However, the main cause is not only the weather, but also an inadequate supply of nutrients. The calves become more susceptible.

Studies show that there is a strong correlation between season, supply level and calf losses (see fig.1) Insufficient supply also leads to illness in summer, but in winter this has far more dramatic consequences. Under-supply during the cold season increases sickness rates by a factor of 2.5 and loss rates also increase many times over. The success of rearing calves is jeopardised in the short term by calves that are in distress and in the long term by a delayed first calving age. These serious economic losses can be avoided by an adapted nutrient supply.

For a good development of the calves, 6 litres of upgraded whole milk or 1 kilo of a high-quality milk replacer (MR) are recommended as a demand-oriented supply. However, this only applies within a temperature range of 20 °C. As outside temperatures fall, more energy and nutrients are needed to maintain body temperature and resistance (see Fig. 2).

Tailor-made feeding solutions

Drinking schedules that are successful in summer must be adapted to the conditions of the colder season. Scientific studies estimate the additional requirement at minus degrees for the same incremental performance to be up to 30% (see Fig. 2).

Ideally, the mixing concentration of the MR should be based on the DM content of whole milk (138 g/l drinking trough or 160 g/l water). To increase this concentration strongly in winter would be tantamount to a violent change of feed, which can lead to diarrhoea. A snack in a bucket drinker or increasing the amount of water in the vending machine has proven to be more effective. Figure 3 shows the recommendations for feeding in the respective temperature sections.

Quality is the key

Only particularly high-quality milk replacers with excellent digestibility such as KALBI MILK TOP, KALBI MILK VITAL or KALBI MILK PRIMUS PROTECT meet the increased demand. When drinking whole milk in winter, in addition to increasing the amount of water, a specific supplementation of trace elements and vitamins is necessary. The excellent whole milk enhancers KALBI AKTIV PROTECT and KALBI PHOSPHORAL SL are available for this purpose.

Reliable intestinal stability

Especially the KALBI "PROTECT" products contain the active ingredient complex "SGW factor", which ensures intestinal stability and thus additionally protects the calf against the special challenges of winter. This is a decisive factor for strengthening health, as calves often fall ill with the typical bovine flu, which was previously weakened by diarrhoea.


With a seasonally adapted nutrient supply, disease and loss rates decrease. The calves get through the winter with more vitality - the foundation for a high-performance dairy herd is laid. In addition to adjusting the supply level, attention should also be paid to creating an optimised microclimate while avoiding draughts.

Calf disease and loss rates
Fig. 1: Supply level and disease rates in calves
Additional demand for thermoregulation
Fig. 2: Additional demand of calves at low temperatures
Additional watering amount in winter
Fig. 3: Recommendation for watering at falling temperatures