Care and Feeding Management of Young Animals in Winter Season

Lokendra¹*, Rahul Bajroliya², Manisha Doot³, Sanket M. Kalam4

¹*Department of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Extension, College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Kamdhenu University, Junagadh (Gujarat)
² Market Development Officer (MDO) at Drools Pet Food Pvt. Ltd.
³ Department of Veterinary Public Health and Epidemiology, College of Veterinary and Animal Science, RAJUVAS, Bikaner (Rajasthan)
4 Department of Animal Nutrition, College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Kamdhenu University, Junagadh (Gujarat)
¹*Corresponding author:


Winter puts stress on both people and animals in India. The season lasts around four months. Humans can adapt to changing weather conditions, but in an intensive farming system, it is important to provide shelter and food for the animals. Young animals must be given proper care due to the breeding season and their susceptibility to infections. Calves have a mortality rate of 32-35% between birth and Three months of age. Producers must make advance plans for shelter. A successful herd experiences future financial loss when its young flock is lost. Both ectoparasites and endoparasites require routine deworming. In the winter, feeding is determined by the animals’ body condition scores as well as the availability of feed. For dairy farms to maintain growth rates, reduce health issues, and maximize both present and future profitability, dairy calf and heifer management throughout the winter months is crucial.

Management under Extreme Cold:

The North Indian region, particularly in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, is very well known for its heavy snowfall, cold winds, and frost. Neonatal calves cannot regulate their body temperature in an open shelter, so precautions must be made to protect them from such bad weather. Compared to dams or does, who are able to produce greater body heat, cold wind has a significant impact on young animals’ health. When combined, wind and rain make it difficult for young animals to regulate their body temperatures. The walls of the animals’ bedding or the heat lamps that are positioned in the shed should not be in contact. Young one should be given additional bedding, primarily made of dry, organic material like straw, to keep them warm and dry since it helps to reduce heat loss, which is the main issue noticed when inorganic bedding material like sand is utilised. Wet bedding also enhances transmission heat loss. Warm air is trapped in thick bedding. The legs of the calf should be immersed in the straw when it is lying down. Goats, calves, and even horses might benefit from additional protection from the cold in the form of clean, dry blankets or gunny bags. In the winter, beef cattle’s bodies produce more heat by boosting their basal metabolic rate and developing long hair. Additionally, cows naturally group together to shield their calves from the cold. This behaviour is known as “hurdling.”

            Goats eat more than usual in extreme temperatures to keep their body temperature stable. They should have access to high-quality feeds such quality hay and grains (corn, barley, wheat, oats, etc.) so that their bodily condition can be preserved. The animal’s food should always be changed gradually. Supplementing with a mineral blend is necessary to handle stressful situations. Never compromise on the type or amount of feed given to growing animals because this will affect their growth. If an animal has a cold, give it lukewarm water on a daily basis to prevent any negative effects on feed intake and nutrient usage. Maintain proper hoof health by trimming and treating as necessary and checking for foot rot regularly. Animals huddle close in cold weather for warmth. Injury and respiratory disorders may become more likely as a result of this exercise. Maintain regular animal observation and make sure that each animal has a suitable place to live.

Weak and sick animals require extra attention. For the comfort and safety of the animals, remove and replace bedding as needed. A newborn calf’s thermal neutral range is between 50 and 78 °F, although it also depends on factors including wind, dampness, hair coat, and bedding. The calf’s thermal neutral zone increases to 32–78°F at one month of age as it becomes more tolerant of cold temperatures. Young stock is more susceptible to disease when under cold stress.

Care and Feeding of Newborn Animals

Soon after birth, clean the newborn animal and induce breathing in it. Cut the naval cord with sterile scissors or a blade, and then apply tincture of iodine or an antiseptic to the area where it was cut. Within 1-2 hours of birth, feed the animal colostrum, which is the mother’s initial milk. Due to its high immunoglobulin content, colostrum protects the young by boosting immunity. Additionally, colostrum is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Due to colostrum’s laxative properties, the first faeces (known as muconium) are easily passed. Deworming the animal at 10 days of age is necessary, and it should be repeated after 21 days. When a calf is born, its weight is typically 30 kg, thus 1.5 kilogramme of colostrum should be administered each morning and evening.

In the absence of colostrum, combine one egg with 300 ml of warm water, 600 ml of milk, and a half teaspoon of castor oil. 80 milligrammes of Oreomycin powder and one spoon of fish liver oil should be added to the mixture. Dry hay and concentrate may be given to the calf after 15 days. The provided concentrate can be raised by 50-100 g each week. Animals are ready to ingest green, fibrous feed at 3 months of age. If extra teat is present in young, it should be removed as soon as possible.

The increased energy requirements of young calves to stay warm in severe temperatures are typically not met by milk replacer or milk-fed beyond the fourth day. When the temperature drops from 10 to -9.4°C, the amount of maintenance required rises by 44%, and if the temperature drop reaches -15°C, the amount of maintenance required rises by 55%. Therefore, more milk or milk substitute must be provided. Older calves are able to ingest more food to combat the cold as they get older. If a young animal becomes ill, do not stop feeding it milk or a milk substitute since the energy from milk helps the animal fight illness. Additionally, after two hours of milk feeding, animals with diarrhoea should be given electrolytes that offer minerals, energy, and protein because electrolytes may prevent clot development in the abomasum.

Feeding of Animals after Three Months

As the rumen develops, the young one is able to ingest more fibrous material, which aids in obtaining the energy needed for maintenance, growth, and resistance to cold stress. Rumen development is completed by six months of age. Animals typically consume 2.5% of their body weight in food, therefore it is important to provide a steady supply of premium forages like straw that are both green and concentrate-based. Roughages are typically selected because they are secure, affordable, and produce more heat during digestion. Concentrate quality and quantity must be changed if forage supplies are inadequate. If grain feeding is available and cheap, it should be done so in regular, small portions rather than all at once, which can cause acidosis. The decrease in the amount of fat in milking cows’ milk is a clear indication that there is less fibre in the diet. The cold is intolerable for weak animals as well as for cows that are not in good condition. Cow body score must be enhanced by providing high-quality feed. In the winter, a gradual adjustment in diet is required because animals must adapt to the new climatic temperature. It takes some time for the rumen microorganisms to adapt to a new feed. To adapt to the cooler temperatures, cattle develop thick winter coats and enhance body heat output. This is typically achieved by speeding up breathing and heart rate, which increases blood flow to the body’s extremities. 20% more feed is often consumed while in a relatively comfortable zone to survived cold stress. When compared to a typical healthy cow, lean cows go into estrus 20 days after calving. Additionally, first-time conception rates are around 20% lower for lean cows who experience more difficulties calving. Such animals experience additional issues during breeding season if they go on to reproduce. The quality and amount of the colostrum generated from such fragile animals is also worse, and the newborns’ immune systems are underdeveloped, making them more vulnerable to illnesses.

Animal Care in the Winter: General Precautions

  • Milk replacement products or milk replacer used for feeding should have at least 20% fat. It is recommended to enhance the liquid from milk replacer’s solid content from 12.5% to 16.0%.
  • Feedings should be given more often and in the same quantity each time. If the animal becomes wet or there is a cold wind, further maintenance is needed. For livestock, the ideal environment temperature is about 32°F, but for wet animals, it is 60°F. Each degree that the wind chill temperature drops causes a 1.0% increase in the energy need for an animal with a healthy, dry coat, compared to a 2.0% increase for an animal with a wet coat.
  • Housing, feeding, and hydration of animals must be taken care of because hypothermia is a serious issue that affects newborns. Give the animals warm food and water to drink. Oilcakes and jaggery should be mixed together and provided to milking animals since this helps to reduce colic and impaction. 
  • Housing and shelter should be situated in regions with good drainage. Generally speaking, indoor feeding is not recommended, however caution must be used because of the ammonia odour. It’s completely pleasant and hygienic to feed animals outside. If culling is an option, do so since ineffective animals will unnecessarily drive up farm feed costs.
  • Stress-relieving activities such as immunization and dehorning should be avoided.
  • Piperazine must be regularly used for deworming. Ectoparasites can be avoided by maintaining a clean animal shed. To prevent ectoparasites, feeds like lemongrass, basil, and nirgundi can be placed in sheds. Neem oil-based disinfectants are frequently quite helpful. Anti-parasitic medications aid in boosting farm output and health.
  • Checking for a naval infection caused by maggots or other issues is necessary. It is crucial to apply any antibacterial cream.
  • High moisture rations cool down in feed bunks, which reduces feed intake and increases energy needs during the winter. Animal feeding time should not be disturbed.
  • Feed, especially fodder like perennial grasses, needs to be carefully collected and kept. Green fodder should be given in small amounts because it causes diarrhoea.
  • Immunization against diseases such as foot and mouth disease, peste des petits ruminants (PPR), commonly known as “goat plague,” which is a viral disease of goats and sheep, haemorrhagic septicaemia, enterotoxemia, and black quarter needs to be done as soon as possible because infections in the winter mostly affect young animals such as lambs and calves.
  • Mastitis in animals must be avoided at all costs. Animal udders should be cleaned with disinfectants after milking.
  • To protect sheep from ectoparasites, disinfectants are applied to the sheep 21 days after shearing.
  • If there is frost, proper preparations for artificial heating and lighting should be established. All animals should have covered shelter at night, and sick or weak animals should be sheltered with sack cloths or gunny bags. Pet animals like dogs and cats should have a coat or a warm jumper available. Avoid damp locations and prevent animals from smoke because these factors together can cause pneumonia.
  • For producing regular green food for animals, fodder crops such as lucerne and berseem require irrigation every 25 days, whereas oats require irrigation every 21 days.