AT this time of year we are in the depths of winter and the cold temperatures can be problematic for calves and lambs, writes Dan Griffiths of Paragon Vets.

Adult cows and sheep have a fully functioning rumen which acts as a great big fermentation vessel, releasing heat in the process of digestion.

Calves and lambs on the other hand have yet to develop a fully functioning rumen and so are more prone to the effects of the cold.

Short periods of cold temperatures is usually well tolerated and similar to us if we get cold as long as we can warm up again quickly we won’t suffer any ill effects.

The problem comes however, if calves and lambs are exposed to prolonged periods where the temperature is below their thermoneutral zone.

Temperatures below the thermoneutral zone mean that the animal must burn food energy to convert to heat (to help keep warm) rather than for growth or production.

It is also true to say that if an animal gets cold for prolonged periods it will then “catch a cold” and this is true for all mammals.

Calves and lambs that are exposed to cold temperatures below their thermoneutral zone for prolonged periods are more susceptible to illness.

It is for these reasons that farmers should take steps to mitigate against the cold weather. Some examples are listed below:

prevent draughts at animal level (draughts raise an animals thermoneutral zone and so they feel the cold quicker)

ensure bedded areas are kept dry to prevent heat loss to the wet bedding

provide a deeper straw bed so the animal can snuggle down into the dry straw bed (this is called the nesting score)

use infra-red heat lamps for the most vulnerable (typically newborns)

consider using calf jackets or lamb coats

feed higher volumes of milk or higher levels of milk solids (i.e. higher energy dense milk) during colder months (this allows extra energy to be lost to heat production without compromising growth and health)

The roots of the Paragon Veterinary Group stretch back to 1938 when a practice was established on Townhead Road, Dalston by John Cubby who qualified from Liverpool University in 1935. Initially the main workload was farm animals and horses.

Paragon employs 14 highly experienced and dedicated farm animal vets. The group includes one Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons recognised specialist in cattle health and production as well as two bovine diploma holders and four certificate holders. There are always two dedicated farm vets available 365 days of the year and 24 hours of the day to deal with routine or emergency procedures on farm.