The severe winter weather before Christmas was a reminder that winter is back and ready to take a toll on cattle herds. Most producers weren’t calving yet but there are some brave individuals who like to start early and try to beat the mud. Although this is achievable, it is not without risks and newborn calves are very sensitive to hypothermia. Even though many calves can recover on their own from mild hypothermia, once their body temperature drops below 95 degrees they will benefit from some assistance in re-warming.
Warm water baths are considered the best method to rapidly re-warm calves but aren't always practical on the farm. Calves need to be monitored constantly to keep them from drowning and then need to be dried thoroughly prior to putting them back outside with their mother. Forced air hot boxes are an alternative to water baths but still need some monitoring. Expect calves to take twice as long to regain normal body temp in a hot box compared to water bath.
However, that difference in time is generally less than an hour, and the calf should be dry and ready to go back to their mother. Whether using a water bath, hot box or some other method be careful not to overheat the calf. Temperature around the calf should not exceed 105 degrees and calves should be monitored often to determine when they achieve normal temperature. If they are left in a hot 105-degree environment for an extended period of time they can become overheated. Be careful using forced air shop type heaters as the temperature can be excessive and needs to be monitored.
Once calves have been re-warmed, make sure they have received adequate colostrum and do not have any other problems before putting them back outside. Check calves regularly and be aggressive in keeping calves warm and hydrated this season.