Icy Tip to Calving During Winter Months

Icy Tip to Calving During Winter Months

Calving doesn’t stop in the winter months. It’s extra important to make sure newborn calves have good vitality during the winter’s frigid temperatures.

Shivering, shaking and making standing attempts are how newborn calves maintain body heat, but they don’t always want to do that right away. According to Dr. Sheila McGuirk, ice water is a handy way to get a struggling calf on the road to warmth.

McGuirk says a calf with good vitality score will meet the following criteria:

  • The calf should start moving its head within minutes of birth
  • The calf should be able to sit up sternal within five minutes
  • The calf should start attempting to stand within 15 minutes
  • The calf should be standing within an hour.


If those vitality marks aren’t met, the calf is at risk for hypothermia, she says. Most farmers have trained their employees to rub newborn calves down with a clean dry towel to stimulate body temperature regulation, but have you ever considered dousing the calf with ice water?

According to McGuirk, ice water is a tremendous tool to stimulate a calf that isn’t breathing. To use this European technique on your farm, you will need ice cubes, access to clean water, a clean bucket and a syringe.

There are two ways to use this technique. The first is to pour 250 ccs of ice water on the head of the struggling calf. Alternately, McGuirk says squirting some ice water into the calf’s ear works even better. She recommends producers use a 60-cc syringe to squirt just that much ice water in the ear of the calf.

“It’s a very abrupt stimulus,” she says. “They shake their head and when they shake their head they want to breathe.”

McGuirk says this technique won’t drop the calf’s body temperature, but it will start to breathe. Once a calf is breathing, it will start shivering – shaking and bringing its body temperature back up to normal.

Source – Dairy Herd Management

Scroll to Top