Updated Post 11 January 2021
We started using calf coats in 2017 as we were using large hutches (outside but in a sheltered part of the yard) to house some calves and I felt they needed coats for warmth. We put the coats on at birth and left them on till almost weaned. We now have a large and airy calf shed with two fans which is great for preventing diseases like pneumonia but not overly warm on cold nights. I now put calf coats on all calves. I have about 80 coats now of different brands, sizes and colours. They wear them for between 3-8 weeks of age. As more calves are born, the coats are removed from the oldest calves, washed and then ready for the next newborns.
Although the coats are supposed to improve thrive (and this study by the Farmers Weekly certainly suggests it does), I was more concerned about them not getting chills, helping them to regulate their temperatures and making them cosy. I notice a farmer on Twitter saying today that he was feeding his spring born calves less milk than last year’s autumn calves because of the calf coats (from 8 litres a day to 7 litres, I feed them about 6.5 litres of milk daily in two feeds and haven’t altered it).
In 2018, I was about to remove coats from some calves before Storm Emma and the ‘Beast from the East’ struck and it seemed daft to remove them just as the temperature was going to drop so severely so we bought another 20 coats for the newborns born that week. I was glad we did as it really got cold. During the snowstorm, the calves on one side of the shed were covered with snow. We checked on them at 4am and ended up moving them down to another calf shed, which was ready but the next unborn calves. Although the coats were wet on the top surface, they were dry under the coat and toasty warm.
Here’s my review of the various calf coats I have:
Mayo Healthcare Calf Coats
I really like the Mayo Healthcare coats and bought more of them this year. The first lot were purchased from Connaught Agri but they aren’t that easy to order from so I got more from the FRS Farm Store in Kilkenny. They are €30 each. They’re soft and duvet-like. They have two wide straps to go under the belly and one at the front. The leg straps are just the same as in other coats. I like the way the coat is shaped to bring the coat up around the chest too. I feel like I’m putting them into a good winter’s coat when I put a Mayo Healthcare coat on, tucking them in and ensuring they are warm. To be honest, this is my favourite. It is soft and warm without being heavy.
The only difficulty is it can be hard to tighten the chest strap enough on the very small calves and occasionally their front leg goes through the neck strap but I’ve only had that happen with a few calves and during the first couple of days of wearing them. I had assumed they were a ‘one size’ but noticed the last lot we purchased were ‘large’ so I presume they come in different sizes.
2. Cosy Calf High Viz Jackets
We only got two of these in 2017. They are €34 each but I notice they are £22 on a UK website. They are similar to the Mayo Healthcare in style with the two wide straps under the belly and a generous chest covering but the fabric isn’t as soft. The coat itself is very heavy. If describing them in human coat terms, I’d be saying they are like a good Sunday church type winter’s coat, warm and formal but not as cosy and soft. I’m not sure why the high-viz element is required but I guess some farmers will have calves outdoors. We just got two in large but I see that they come in different sizes. They are a fine coat, but to me, they are heavy and cumbersome rather than cosy.
3. Red Cosy Calf Coats
I’m pretty sure these are also Cosy Calf coats and I think we bought them from an agri company in Tipperary back in 2017. From memory, they were €22 each (and the ones above were €10 dearer). I like these, not overly heavy but they look comfortable. They aren’t as generous as the two above so if leaving them on till weaning, you’ll find they only cover the top and half the sides of the calf by the time you’re taking them off! The straps can be pulled tight so are also suitable for very small calves. In four years, I’ve had to repair a few buckles but they have had a lot of wear.
4. Grey ‘Kalberdecke” Coats
These are my least favourite. I bought some just before the storm. I bought the 80cm ones as had measured the length of the red ones which were 75 cm. The only thing is the red coat is shaped to come further forwards under the chest area whereas the grey coat is more of a “square shape” and doesn’t come forward on the chest, hence, I use them on the larger calves. On smaller calves, they look like they are wearing a badly shaped skirt and they pull in around the bum area which means their poo sticks to them and gets messy. Drives me mad. Large Hereford bulls fit into them perfectly at birth but generally, they are too big for our newborns.
I bought them from Glanbia Connect when they were on offer for €21.60. The normal price is €27 but I’d suggest you spend the extra €3 and get the Mayo Healthcare ones. To be honest, I feel like I’m putting a bit of old sackcloth on the calf with the grey ones whereas with the Mayo Healthcare, I feel like I’m really mothering them and making them cosy.
5. Cormac Tagging Calf Coats
I bought twenty of the Cormac Tagging Calf Coats in medium last year. They are €25 each. They differ slightly from the others in that the front strap is Velcro. I did wonder if it might wear and become ‘unsticky’ but so far so good. The velcro strap is really easy to fasten and much easier to pull tight on smaller calves. The leg straps are elasticated as well as having an adjustable buckle. This is handy as they grow fast and it doesn’t have to be adjusted as frequently. The single underbelly strap tends to loosen easily and stay loose but it doesn’t tend to matter unless the calf is very small and the leg straps are a bit loose (then the coat can come off an energetic small calf). They are a bit lighter in weight than some of the other coats.
6. Animac Calf Coats
I received three different calf coats from Animac to try this year. The calving season is due to start around 25th Jan but I’d say a few cows will go before then so I’ll use these coats first and let you know what I think.
The Super Calf Jacket comes in four sizes (I asked for small and medium, there is also a large and extra large). Each size has a different coloured trim which is handy when you’re rummaging for a calf coat to best fit the latest newborn. They are £26.40 stg incl VAT and it looks like you have a buy a box of 20 or 25. They have velcro as well as a buckle at the front, leg straps and two under belly straps.
If you’re in Ireland and don’t want to order from the UK because of the hassle with customs or want to buy in smaller amounts, Gregg Care is selling them online for €28.
The Canvas Calf Blanket is intriguing me. I’ll be interested to see how well it stays on a calf. I received it in large and it does look huge so I guess I’ll be using it on a Hereford calf. The outer layer is canvas, the inner is wool (great to see wool being used, they are made in India so I don’t know if it is British wool). It only has two straps, a buckle at the neck and another at the tail end (no leg straps or under belly straps). I’m already thinking that altering the buckle on a lively calf is going to be a pain but I’ll let you know. They are an excellent price at £15 stg incl VAT.
Why have a Variety?
It can be handy to have a variety of styles of calf jackets, partly because they are sized differently and some are better for small calves, some for large calves. I also find it helps me to remember who a calf is, for example, if putting two newborn bull or heifer calves that look very similar into a pen, I used to tag one of them in one ear (until we got around to tagging them within the next couple of days) but now I just remember that Thelma’s calf is the one in the red coat and number 2285’s calf is the one in the green.
It can be surprising how quickly the coats need to be adjusted. Just shows how quickly the calves grow. It’s not always easy to adjust coats on lively calves. The handiest way to do it is to get into the pen when they are drinking milk and work my way around them.
Just in case anyone thinks this is a sponsored post, it isn’t. All calf coats were purchased, with the exception of the sample Amimac coats received.
Oh, and how do I wash them? I wash them with the hose to get the worst of the muck off them. Generally they don’t tend to be bad, apart from the grey ones. Then I put them into the washing machine 3 or 4 coats per load. Do I put our clothes in straight afterwards? No, I do about 6 or 8 loads of calf coats, then an empty load with vinegar and then our normal washing resumes.
Have you tried calf coats and what did you think?