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Clipping Heifers?

Jerry Bertoldo, Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: June 25, 2013

Moderating air temperatures lend themselves well to optimum performance for both cows and people. The lengthening days trigger animals to shed their winter hair coats and replace them with short, silky hair that will more efficiently aid in the dispersion of heat in the rising temperatures.

What about those cows, generally two year old heifers, who fail to shed their wooly winter coats? These poor creatures are wearing a metaphorical banner that reads "I will have problems when I calve!". Without delving into whether certain pre-dispositions cause the failure to shed, or whether the failure to shed create the pre-dispositions to fresh cow problems, we probably can agree that these cows are generally going to be more challenged than those who have their warm weather hair coats. Maybe it's time to look at an old-fashioned way of disrupting the unfortunate cascade of stress events that lead to fresh cow problems: blow the dust off your Old Browns!

Just as that bottle of calcium is a great way to give older cows a boost after calving (even if they don't display obvious clinical signs of hypocalcemia), a quick clip job can help a wooly fresh heifer "hit the ground running", so to speak. It has been well documented that a cooler animal in warm weather will have a lower respiration rate, and uses less energy to thermo-regulate, and have more energy available for maintenance, involution, milk production, etc.

We're not talking about a show-time body clip with a top-line, but rather a quick buzz cut along the back, over the ribs, and for added cleanliness, the thighs (and if she'll let you, shave that udder too!). Using a well-maintained set of clippers, which can be obtained new for under $200, and a quick curry combing to remove blade-dulling debris, the entire procedure can be done in the same amount of time it takes to run a bottle of calcium. This short investment of time can potentially reduce time spent on treating an over-heated, ketotic heifer that has metritis and pneumonia in the future.











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