Preparing Calves Now For Summer Heat

Jade Baerg Countryside Cooperative, Calf and Heifer Specialist

Winter offers a unique opportunity to get a jump-start on how you handle diseases, especially in the summer. Raising calves in the north, you have an advantage. It gets very cold in the winter, which typically means less bacterial disease to deal with. Of course, bacteria don’t go away completely.

I hope you see value in using winter to get ahead of the disease problem. This means using best management practices now to decrease pathogen shedding, cleaning and disinfecting facilities and equipment when the bacteria grows back slower, and feeding the micro-biome of your calves to set them up for improved immune function and gut health.

In most cases, bacterial disease comes from contact with manure. It is transmitted orally into calves at a young age. When I talk about decreasing shedding, I’m not only talking about the calves but the cows, too. Any time animals are stressed, they will shed more of the pathogens they carry in their guts. Major stress points of both calves and cows include extreme cold, scours and freshening.

Common diseases in calves under two weeks are typically related to high shedding of bacteria in places like the maternity pen or group pens, and poor colonization of the good calf-specific bacteria micro-biome (the gut). There are ways to manage shedding in dry cows, such as the use of NutriTek which helps decrease the pathogen load in the gut of a cow. As a result, that decreases what she sends out the back during the stressful time of calving.

NOTE: NutriTek contains antioxidants and yeast. Antioxidants will help neutralize free radicals, similar to an engine using gas and generating exhaust. Yeast is a prebiotic that feeds the important rumen microbes and increases volatile fatty acid production.

We need to feed the micro-biome of calves from day one to set up an army to combat the bad bacteria. Since nearly 80% of their immune system is located in their gut, it only makes sense to invest in your calves’ health and future productivity when they are most efficient—early in life. Products that will accomplish this include Calf Insure® and Healthy Edge®. Both of these Land O’Lakes® products contain high doses of calf-specific, research-proven probiotics, antioxidants and prebiotics to stimulate the micro-biome of the calf and help reduce the severity of bacterial infections and scours.

I can do a complete consultation for your calf-raising operation, including a cost per pound of gain workup, labor, treatments, time spent treating, and additives used. I’ll compare what you’re spending now to what you could spend using these products to improve calf health.

We can’t manage what we don’t measure. Ask me to show you what this could mean for your farm. Call me, Jade Baerg, at 612-220-3649. Or you can email me at

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