Back at the end of October we put together some pre-season tips for lambing, and while we know that the calving season is pretty far away, it’s definitely time to start dusting off some of the old practices to get ready. Some of these tips should help lighten the load once calving season gets into full swing, so with no further ado, here are some quick tips to remember for calving.
Make sure you have a calving kit prepared. There are some problems that producers themselves can handle if they’re properly prepared. But, there are limitations to what you can do by yourself and some issues will need professional help (i.e. your farm vet). You should make sure your calving kit includes lubricant, palpation sleeves, colostrum supplement, towels, esophageal feeder, calving chains, bucket, water, a flashlight, rope halter, catch rope, two vets phone numbers (in case you can’t reach your primary vet), and, a heat source.
Set A Schedule
Make sure you have a very defined breeding season. This allows a great advantage at calving because it gives you a definable beginning and end. Best practices state that a shorter period is better (avg. 60 to 90 days). Additionally, make sure to note breeding dates on the animals if possible. Collecting these dates will shorten the amount of time spent during calving season to find out when they’re due. Also, you should find out what the birth weight indicators are for the sire, this way, any potential problems can be observed and any possible mishaps avoided. The extra effort and expenses to find these factors is well worth it when the value of that weaned feeder calf is $725!
Know the Signs
Producers should familiarize themselves with the signs of the normal calving process. The whole process from the water breaking to the after birth will take between 11 and 15 hours total, but this can be longer depending on complications and the weight of the calf. Producers that are comfortable or knowledgeable about the birthing process should be prepared to assist (see point number 1) or call for assistance when needed. Just remember, whatever you do that you do it cleanly and carefully to minimize your risk and the risk of complications with the mother.
Feeding is Key!
Finally, make sure that the calf nurses soon after birth. The ingestion of colostrum within the first 12 hours is key to the calf’s immune system and in turn, its survival. It is also a good idea to collect colostrum from a nearby dairy, preferably from older cows and freeze it for later use. When thawing the frozen colostrum make sure to immerse it in warm water. Never thaw it by direct heat or microwave because you will kill all the necessary nutrients and antibodies the calf needs if done this way.