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Management

Extension Education: Getting a Leg up on Spring Calving

Busy days and long nights are on the horizon for many cow/calf producers across the country.  Believe it or not, it is time to start thinking about and preparing for calving season as many producers have already started or plan to start soon. Developing your own personal pre-calving check list can be beneficial to your operation and perhaps alleviate some of the stresses associated with this crucial time of the year for producers. Suggested practices and reminders will be outlined in this article that should give readers a chance to consider how and what applies to their operation.

Calving team

Building an effective calving team will make for smoother days and nights. A high priority is to ensure that you will have enough quality help to ration out calving duties. 

It is also important to make sure that everyone involved has experience in calving situations. To accomplish this, be approachable for questions and ensure proper training of all employees before the first calf hits the ground.

In building a team, consider providing written expectations to employees, including job description, task routines and performance objectives.

Finally, consult with your veterinarian in advance about availability.

Facilities

Inspecting calving facilities helps prepare a healthy environment will yield healthier calves and dams. Don’t wait to set up until calving begins. Start now!

Facilities should be cleaned, well ventilated, disinfected and re-bedded. Clean water should be available to every pen/animal in the facility. Also, eliminate wet or muddy spots within calving area.

To prevent overcrowding, consider splitting areas into individual segments. Make sure there is enough room for cows ready to calve at all times. Also, ask yourself, is there a backup plan for alternative housing in case there is an overflow of calvers?

Finally, make sure the head catch in the calving facility is in working order.

Inventory

Setting time aside for equipment/calving inventory prior to calving will be well worth it. It will save you time from unexpected trips to town, money and stress on you and your cattle.

For supplies, keep plenty of calf bedding on hand and stock up early if you need to. Check supply of gloves, lubricant, soap, disinfectant, navel dip, etc.

Make sure calf jacks and chains are in working order and are clean, and you have ear taggers and tag supplies available.

Other supplies to have on hand include colostrum replacer, electrolytes, weigh tapes, bottles and nipples, hand needles, syringes, oxytocin, antibiotics and uterine boluses.

Also, remember to check the use dates on drugs and electrolytes leftover from last season.

Healthy cows

Late gestation nutrition is vital for a successful breeding program. Again, healthy mothers equal healthy calves, which equal successful program.

Cows should calve at least at a Body Condition Score (BCS) 5, or in moderate condition. Heifers should calve at about a BCS 6, or good condition.

Females under these standards may be weak or underdeveloped and are more likely to experience difficulty. Females substantially over these standards may also experience calving difficulty due to fat build up in the birth canal.

Improper BCS is associated with milk production and performance and immunity of the calf. 

Ensure the diet meets protein and energy requirements for late gestation. Underfeeding protein or energy will leave females weak and may hinder a smooth delivery. It may cause an increase in post partum interval and negatively affect conception rates in the following breeding season, as well.

Research suggests that some exercise has been known to cause increased muscle tone, which may also decrease calving difficulty.

There are many intricate details that build into the formation of a successful calving season. A producer’s ability to do their homework and be prepared is essential for maximizing their success. If stressful situations were minimized, it would allow producers to more likely enjoy calving season and bring excitement and optimism toward the future of their programs.  

I wish all of you the best of luck and am looking forward to seeing this spring’s crop of calves.