Eight tips to help you be better prepared
For those producers who still have a few weeks before calving, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a recently released fact sheet. Aaron Berger, an extension beef educator with the university, offered several tips. The condensed version follows:
1. Pay attention to nutrition of bred heifers and cows
Body condition affects stamina during calving, as well as colostrum quality, calf vigour and rebreeding. Nutrition is especially important during the 50 to 60 days before calving. Two- and three-year-old cows are vulnerable during this time, as they’re still growing themselves. As the calf grows inside the young cow, it has less rumen capacity and can’t eat as much. If available forage is low in energy and protein and the weather is bitterly cold during this time, body condition can deteriorate rapidly.
2. Review your herd health plan with your vet
Identify areas where you can reduce risk and improve herd health. Use treatment records from last year to identify problem areas and mitigate health problems. If you don’t have the necessary records, figure out what types of records would help you make management and husbandry decisions.
3. Make sure calving facilities are in good shape
Inspect gates, pens, alleys, head catches and lighting. Clean calving areas, pens and barns to reduce disease.
4. Check calving supplies
Plastic sleeves, obstetrical lube, obstetrical chains or straps, esophageal feeders and bottles. Talk to your vet about what you need to manage common problems. Make sure the calf puller is working and is clean. Test flashlights and spotlights.
5. Review calving stages
Review the calving stages and ensure you understand when you’ll need help.
6. Have colostrum or colostrum replacement on hand
The best colostrum sources are from within your own herd but colostrum replacements can be a good option after cold stress, prolonged calving, during poor maternal bonding or if the calf isn’t vigorous at birth.
7. Cold weather prep
If calving during cold weather, have a plan and equipment for warming calves.
8. Protection from the elements
Have wind protection and a clean, dry environment prepared. For more on calving management, visit beef.unl.edu.