Some producers are beginning their spring calving while others are still a few months away. Here are some practices to consider when preparing for calving.
1. Be attentive to nutritional requirements of bred heifers/cows prior to breeding.
Adequate body condition at the time of calving for young and old cows is important as it impacts colostrum quality, calf health, and subsequent rebreeding. Sufficient nutrition during the last trimester, especially the last 50-60 days prior to calving, is important because 75% of the fetus grows during the last trimester of pregnancy.
2. Work with your veterinarian to review herd health protocol.
If health issues within the herd have historically been an issue it is important to review any critical practices that could mitigate risk. The production system and goals should be discussed in its entirety prior to breeding, and executed through calving and marketing.
3. Maintain calving facilities.
Some producers have multipurpose calving areas while others only use facilities during calving season. Regardless of usage, it is suggested to examine calving facilities. Inspect gates, pens, alleys, and head catches in advance to be fully functional when needed. Good lighting is important. Be sure to check lights and have extra bulbs on hand.
4. Inspect calving supplies.
It is important to have multiple supplies on hand to assist in calving if necessary. Make sure to have obstetrical sleeves, lubricant, and chains or straps, and calf feeding bottles. If you use halters, ropes other tools ensure that are nearby when needed. Confirm that your calf puller is clean and in working order.
5. Have colostrum or colostrum replacement on hand.
A calf’s ability to absorb immunoglobulin across the intestine decreases rapidly after 6-12 hours post parturition. Therefore, a calf should receive colostrum during this time. It is a good practice to immediately milk out the heifer/cow when she is assisted at calving and provide this colostrum to the calf.
6. Create a plan to warm calves in cold weather scenarios.
During the winter newborn calves can quickly succumb to hypothermia. Have facilities, tools, and supplies to deal with harsh winter weather. For mild cases give the calf body temperature colostrum and dry the calf with towels and warm air. For extreme cases a combination of the warm colostrum and a warm bath can be used. Calves should be dry, alert and have a normal body temperature before returning to their mother.
7. Create area adequate for calving.
Plan to provide wind protection along with a clean dry environment. Wet and muddy conditions add stress to both cows and calves that can aid in rapid spread of disease.
A fresh calf crop is what cow-calf producers look forward to every year. Calving season can already be a stressful time. Being prepared can help alleviate some of these stresses. For more information on preparing for calving season call me at my office (402)624-8030 or visit the bigredbeeftalk.unl.edu website.