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Getting ready for calving

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Eight tips to help you be better prepared

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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:

Related: Rotating pastures to reduce scours in calves

1. Pay attention to nutrition of bred heifers and cows

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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.

Related: The economics of preg-checking

2. Review your herd health plan with your vet

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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.

Related: Pain medication at calving and in the feedlot

3. Make sure calving facilities are in good shape

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Inspect gates, pens, alleys, head catches and lighting. Clean calving areas, pens and barns to reduce disease.

Related: High-risk calves a welfare concern

4. Check calving supplies

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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.

Related: Cleaning and reusing medical equipment for cattle

5. Review calving stages

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Review the calving stages and ensure you understand when you’ll need help.

Related: Lessons from a neonatal disease survey

6. Have colostrum or colostrum replacement on hand

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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.

Related: Low-stress weaning for calves

7. Cold weather prep

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If calving during cold weather, have a plan and equipment for warming calves.

Related: Dealing with frostbite in calves

8. Protection from the elements

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Have wind protection and a clean, dry environment prepared. For more on calving management, visit beef.unl.edu.

Related: Some thoughts on calving shelter

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