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How's your calving season going? Producers around the country say so far, for the most part, the warmer-than-normal weather has been kind to a lot of calving cows. But, what else goes into a successful calving season?
"I have bred heifers that should start calving the first of May. what do I need to be doing to be ready when they start calving?" asks Agriculture.com Cattle Talk contributor FarmersTan.
Here are a few tips that other Cattle Talk contributors and advisors recommend to get the most out of your calving season.
1. Prepare good space for cows and calves
It's best to have small pens for calving cows to be able to deliver and get the newborn calf up and nursing as soon as possible. This is both essential to the good health of the calf as well as the cow's ability to "claim" the calf.
"If there are stalls or partitions in the barn, that is probably good enough," says Cattle Talk advisor Nebrfarmr. "If mama doesn't claim the baby, or if the baby has problems getting up to nurse, you will need a place to put them, until you are sure the calf filled his tummy, and mama claims him."
2. Adjust feeding times
Cattle Talk contributor and southwestern Michigan producer hardwayfarmer says he usually feeds grain in the morning, but during calving time switches to evening feeding. Why? "It helps get them in the barn, and research has proven that feeding in the evening tends to cause the cows to calve during the day, or at least towards morning," he says.
3. Go easy when pulling calves
If you are halfway through pulling a calf and it starts bawling, instinct might compel you to pull harder to get the calf out as quickly as possible. But, that's the last thing you should do. The calf's bawling means it can at least breathe, which is most important.
"You know the calf has air, and you have time to work. Just relax the pressure from pulling a bit in between contractions, so it can breathe," says Nebrfarmr. "I have seen more calves injured/killed because it was halfway out and crying and the guy pulling it thought that they had to get the calf out as fast as possible, and injured it when it became hip-locked."
If the calf does become hip-locked, try rotating it 45 degrees so the calf's hips match the birth canal better. And, Nebrfarmr says if the calf isn't breathing immediately, try poking its nose with a stick. "That will make him sneeze and it will often get them started," he says.
4. Watch cow behavior before & after calving
Even if it's the tamest, most easygoing cow in your herd, her hormones will kick in sometime before or after calving and as a result, she may want you nowhere near her calf. Be aware that the animals' behavior can change quickly and be ready to act. "I have one cow that will eat range cubes out of my hand all summer, but from the time the calf hits the ground until the next morning, NOTHING gets near her baby, at least not on foot," Nebrfarmr says. "In a day or 2, she is back to her old self. Just because a cow is usually tame, or well mannered, does not mean they will be that way when they calve."
5. Give the cows time
Keeping cows and newborn calves separated from the rest of the herd isn't just good for the bond between the two of them. Keeping the cow in isolation a day or so after her calf is born can help her bounce back quicker once back with the herd, hardwayfarmer says.
"Depending on how frequently cows calve, sometimes the isolation is only a day, or sometimes several days," he says. "It's best to get the cows back in the group as soon as possible so they don't fight much."
6. Don't be afraid to call the vet
"Don't feel ashamed to call your vet if you are a little overwhelmed," advises Cattle Talk senior contributor cowfarmer. "Don't feel dumb for making the call if you don't know what's happening. Always be a good caretaker and watch out for the cattle and their best interests."
Photo above courtesy Kari Hollman.