Dealing with Heat Stressed Calves

August 26 2023 – Griswold Cattle Griswod

I have read and searched the internet trying to find tips and methods to deal with calves that have got too hot, there are none.


The weather here like many of you are experiencing has been 100 plus for several days with no break, calves did fine for a few days and then they didn't, they crashed, and like I am sure some of you we lost some.

I am not a vet, this isn't going to be written perfect I just want share the information we have on hand and I will try and come back and revise later.  

  • Anything that is hot, tongue out, ears down, panting or breathing heavily, will let you come up to them at 4 or 5 days old without trying to get away we have tubed with electrolytes.  Use a solid brand of electrolytes.
  • calves that were over the top hot came into the barn, a few of those were hot enough we took to the vet to have IV fluids or had a vet come and administer.
  • Be careful when cooling them down with a hose, you can put them into shock, get their topline and legs wet and have them under a fan with a mister.  We have been using ice on underlines and under their chest.  It is a rollercoaster, some days you aren't sure if anything much is helping.
  • peel off the front ends of hairy calves, be careful clipping all of their top, they will sunburn and it can kill them.
  • We have been using rubbing alcohol, it evaporates faster, run it down their back, and on their hind end.  
  • avoid caffeine, actually just don't give it, it will speed up their heart rate and further dehydrate them.
  • IV fluids can be given under the skin, I have seen people put these in their paunch, under their armpit and across their ribs.  18 gauge 3/4 needle, subq and open it full up, 500 cc then wait four hours and take temp. and if needed administer more. You will need to work with a vet to get IV fluids .
  • If calves are still getting up and nursing but just need hydrated we have used both oral and iv fluids to get them hydrated, use common sense and follow your gut, these little babies crash FAST.
  • We have brought some into 70 degree rooms if they are too hot, this isn't recommended, they will end up living there longer than you want them too but if they simply can't cool down it's the only way we have been able to save a few.
  • Banamine and Dex can be used together, be careful, don't give Dex more than a few days in a row, you will affect their kidneys BUT, it's a catch 22 at some points and I get that, 1 cc of Banamine and 1 1/2 of Dex will help bring down that fever and make them feel better quick.
  • If sick doctor with a long spectrum antibiotic, we have been using Batril espesically before they go "inside" just with the difference between temperatures and humidity. Follow up 4 days later with a second dose
  • Scourgaurd, isn't that what it's called?, the red stuff you know what I mean, give 20 cc of that daily while you are using so many fluids to help with the loose stool, we have had a few get the scours with this but this has dried them up quickly.
  • Once their temp has came back down quite using electrolytes, you can easily throw off ph balance.  Use milk and feed them either with the cow or replacer every six hours.  We have had a few calves that are too weak to nurse the cow but will take a bottle, make sure they are nursing aggressively and getting enough fluids. 2 pints every feeding.
  • pinch their skin, if it takes a while to go back in place you have a problem, dry nose, sunken eyes. A thermometer is your friend, use it.  These small calves cannot regulate their temperature, if it is 105 outside their temp will be 105, if they aren't nursing they will crash.
  • A weak calf can be given Dextrose, sugar, or I have been using Karo Syrup, they need energy right now, this will help give them a boost to get up and nurse, it is absorbed on their gums within 30 seconds and you will usually notice an instant boost. I have put it in a drench and also just squirted some on their gums.  That is the one problem with just using electrolytes is the fact they aren't getting the energy they need, they will get weak fast without calories.
  •  Now the calves that can't seem to get their breath, hard breathers, we have all seen them and if they don't get better at this point chances are they won't.  Predef and Recover 3 to 5 cc of each and then you can use Recover three days in a row if needed and follow up three to four days later with one more dose of Predef.  On these little calves we have just been giving 3 cc of each.
  • I have not used it but one person said Vitaferm heat mineral and climate control gel, I am going to order some today, right I'd stand on my head and count the stars upside down if I thought it would work.

Good luck, it is hard, it is emotional, you think they are on the mend and they crash, I'm sure you are all living out in the pastures, one check they are fine and the next you wonder if they will make it.  Our weather is supposed to break on Sunday or tonight and we are ready, I am sure all of you are.  We are praying for all of you.  Thank you for every tip and trick, this has been the perfect storm this year and unlike anything I have experienced. 

One quick note that I'm sure you all know but we push babies to shade ASAP everyday, we account for every one of them, they will cook to death in the sun, literally, it doesn't take long.  Keep your chin up, this too shall pass.

Tagged: calving, cattle heat managment, electrolytes to small calves, heat stressed calves