As calving season approaches, cold stress is a major concern for producers in many areas. University of Nebraska Animal Scientist Rick Rasby reports that Canadian researchers have tested and compared different methods of reviving hypothermic or cold stressed baby calves.

The researchers measured heat production and rectal temperature in 19 newborn calves during hypothermia and recovery using four different means of assistance. First, they immersed the calves in cold water to reduce their rectal temperature to a hypothermic level of 86 degrees Fahrenheit. They rewarmed some of the calves in a 68 to 77 degree air environment using extra insulation or supplemental heat from infrared lamps.

For another group of calves, the researchers used immersion in 100-degree water, with or without a 40cc drench of 20 percent ethanol in water. Normal rectal temperatures before cold stress were 103 degrees.

The warm water bath without the ethanol drench brought calves back to normal body temperature in 59 minutes, fastest of the four treatments. Warm water plus ethanol drench took 63 minutes, insulation took 90 minutes and heat lamps took 92 minutes.

The researchers also note that the calves rewarmed with the added insulation and heat lamps needed to produce nearly twice as much heat metabolically as the calves immersed in warm water.

The warm-water bath, they conclude, returned calves to normal body temperature the most rapidly and with minimal metabolic effort. They found no advantage to the ethanol drench. Dr. Rasby reminds producers to attend calves closely when they warrm them in water, supporting their heads to prevent accidental drowning.