We have over 50 years experience designing and producing rugs for animals. Originally from New Zealand, Nathan is the third generation of his family business which have been manufacturing horse rugs and saddles since the late 1960's.
Calf Jackets - A Guide
Let’s start on the ground floor, what is a calf jacket? Calf jackets are animal coats specifically designed to fit a calf during the first weeks of its life. They have proven themselves to make significant differences in the health of young calves. Their primary function? To assist newborn calves tolerate cold stress and improve health and growth during the winter months.
By adding a layer of protection to the calf it helps it regulate body temperature and save on energy use. When temperatures drop below 10 degrees C, a young calf will start to feel cold and burn energy to maintain its body temperature. When a calf uses energy trying to keep itself warm 3 things happen:
It eats more to replace the lost energy that went into maintaining a stable body temp. This means more feed and higher costs per animal.
The energy that goes into heating does not go into growing so the calf has a slower growth rate. A study in the UK compared 40 Holstein calves reared from December through February. Half received calf jackets from 2 to 12 weeks of age, and half did not. The researchers found that calves with jackets gained an average of 11.68 pounds more than those without.
Just like what happens to us when we are cold we are more susceptible to getting sick, the same is true for calves. When a calf is sick during this crucial growth period it further affects their growth rate and can cause added expenses in the way of vet bills.
Putting a calf jacket on your herd is a cheap way to help the calf maintain optimal body temperature and promote healthy growth.
Which Jacket Should You Choose?
Key Features To Look For:
When choosing which product to purchase you want to pick the best calf jacket available, to do so you need to focus on some key features that are essential for getting the most out of them. Not all calf jackets are created equal so keep a look out that what you are going to buy meets each of these requirements:
A key part of keeping the calf warm is keeping it dry, nothing zaps away heat faster than water. Having a waterproof jacket means that any showers your calf finds itself in will not affect it and the jacket will remain bone dry. We want to point out that you need to look for ‘waterproof’ jackets not merely ‘water resistant’.
Waterproof calf jackets have a rubber layer within the coat that is a physical barrier the water cannot penetrate, this layer has very small holes in it to allow air to pass through but are not big enough for water molecules.
A water resistant jacket will not have the rubber layer and instead would have been treated with a spray on coating to repel water. These are great when new but over time and depending on use the coating rubs away making it no longer water resistant. It is simple to test if the coating still remains, just pour some water on it and if it beads and runs off the coating is still doing its job. If the water is absorbed into the material it means it no longer works, to make the coat water resistant again it will need to be retreated.
Although it is used for warmth the calf jacket needs to be breathable, using premium materials helps to ensure that moisture/dampness is not trapped under the coat which will make the calf feel colder and uncomfortable. Poor materials also promote the growth of mould which is bad for the animal and bad for the jackets when they are in storage and will reduce the amount of seasons they will last.
Suited for the seasonal temperature
You want a jacket that is suitable in a range of temperatures so you can leave it on the calf and not worry even if you are experiencing an unusually cold snap or bought of warm weather. No one wants to be taking jackets on and off more than they have to so look for ones that will work in a variety of temperatures.
Just with items you wear yourself you want to ensure they are comfortable, a jacket with a bad design, hard corners or poor materials will cause discomfort to the animal. If the animal isn’t comfortable it will most likely try to get the jacket off which in doing so can cause damage to the jacket and the calf.
Well fitted to the calf
This is an essential point as a poor fitting jacket can actually cause harm to the animal and defeat the purpose of the product. Look for one with plenty of adjustable straps so that it can be adjusted as the calf grows and can maintain a perfect fit. A poorly fitted jacket can cause sores on the skin from rubbing and these can get infected.
Which One Is The Best?
One of the most popular calf coats in the UK is by Cosy Calfs, we have done a quick comparison of our Animac Super Calf Jacket vs the Cosy Calf Jacket to help highlight how ours is the best bang for buck value with more features for the same price.
Which Size Should I Get?
Now that you know what features are important when considering which to buy you now need to get the right size. Fit is important as a properly fitted jacket is much more effective at doing its job and will be more beneficial for the calf. For this reason we offer 4 different sizes ensuring the jacket is perfect no matter the breed of calf.
The quick answer: Measurements are taken along the back, neck to tail. We put together this video to make it easy to get this important step right so you know what you are ordering is 100% correct.
Animac Calf Jacket Available Sizes
Small = 22" Medium = 24" Large = 28" X Large = 32"
Smaller breeds like Jersey's should use the small size for newborns.
Holstein's can go with the medium for newborns and small for premature & twins.
Large breeds, such as the Belgium Blue, would suit the Large for newborns and the Medium for premature and twins.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Jackets
As with anything there are things to consider and actions to take which will play a role in how effective the product is, we have more detail on these best practices for calf jacket care in a separate article but here is a quick summary:
Get the rit fit, as mentioned above this is very important.
Rug the calf only when it is completely dry.
Still use quality bedding, a jacket does not replace bedding.
When going through a warm patch check for sweat under the jacket.
Wash it when necessary and at the end of the season (more on this below).
Check the calf and jacket regularly, once a week is a good amount. There are 4 main benefits to having a regular checking schedule:
Weekly adjusting of the straps keeps a good position on the calf ensuring it does its job effectively.
Allows you to see the tangible growth rate as the calf continually gets bigger, you can see in the adjustments you make the speed at which it is growing both against itself and other calves in the same herd.
Physically checking the calf allows you to see early any issues that crop up with the animal that previously would not be spotted when you are not actively checking over the calf so often.
As above with the animal, checking the jacket itself also helps spot any damage or issues with the coat and gives you a chance to fix any problems early, greatly improving the longevity of the product.
Keeping It Clean
Keeping the jackets clean is not only better for the calf but also greatly improves the longevity of the jacket itself. There are a few options with how to wash a calf jacket which we go into detail in a dedicated post but here are the main points:
Washing Machine - Best to do in a secondary washing machine.
Hand Washing - Using a container and hand scrubbing with a brush.
Power Washing - Using a high pressure hose (like at a local car wash) to clean them.
Once washed ensure the jacket is completely dry before fitting it and that it is properly fitted to the calf. A damp jacket can cause nighttime chilling and promotes bacteria and mould growth. The same goes for the end of season wash, before storing make sure they are bone dry before putting them away. You don’t want to be pulling them out the next year to find they need yet another wash to clear up mould that has grown over the past 6 months.