More Fat in Bossys Diet Helps Baby
Calves Stay Warm
By Kathryn Barry
February 18, 1997
Extra fat in a cows diet during her last six weeks of pregnancy could
help her newborn calf fare better in cold temperatures.
Preliminary results by scientists with the USDAs Agricultural Research Service showed for
the first time that fat in the cows diet may have an important role in a
newborn calfs ability to maintain its body heat. An estimated 95,000
calves die each year due to cold stress, but that number could be higher in
this years bitter winter temperatures.
Researchers added safflower with high concentrations of linoleic and oleic
fatty acids to the diets of 12 cows for 53 days prior to calving. Another 11
ate a standard feed ration.
For the first five hours after birth, the calves stayed at room temperature.
Then they were put in a room kept at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. During the
140-minute experiment, body temperatures of calves from normally fed cows fell
one-third of a degree more than calves whose mothers ate the extra fats.
The effect of this temperature drop on calf survival is still under study.
But calves born to cows on the high-fat diet had more brown fat.
Brown fat surrounds organs such as the kidneys and helps the animals generate
body heat immediately after birth.
Researchers are repeating the experiment to confirm the first years
Other supplements such as rice bran and soybean oil also contain fatty acids
in different combinations, but their effect on calf heat production is unknown.
Scientific contact: Robert Bellows, USDA-ARS
Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research
Laboratory, Miles City, Mont., phone (406) 232-4970