Tips to Make Calving Season a Success
Calving season is in full swing in Colorado. Calving season is labor intensive, usually occurs in harsh conditions, and is one of the most important seasons for cattle producers. In order to help provide calves the best chance at surviving and thriving, follow some of these tips!
1. Colostrum: Colostrum provides essential immunity-boosting antibodies that are absorbed directly through the calf’s gut wall into the blood stream. The window for optimal absorption of colostrum is the first 12 hours of life and the colostrum is the calf’s only chance to receive the vital antibodies from its mom. Keeping frozen colostrum, or colostrum replacement is available for those calves that cannot nurse.
2. Nutrition: Pay close attention to nutrition and avoid over-feeding heifers and cows prior to calving. Cows, and especially heifers that are over conditioned, can be predisposed to difficult calvings. Separate off cows that are under conditioned and may require additional feed. Proper body condition also ensures the production of quality colostrum.
3. Shelter: Provide plenty of dry straw and windbreaks to give calves the best chance at survival. First calf heifers often do not clean off their calves as quickly as cows who have had several calves. This can put a freshly born, wet calf at risk of freezing to the cold frozen ground if there isn’t a proper calving area. It is important keep these calving areas clean to prevent disease transmission.
4. Giving Calves a Head Start: Giving a subcutaneous injection of Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin E at birth can boost the immune system and appetite of new born calves. Additionally, dipping the navel in iodine helps avoid umbilical infections, which can become very serious conditions.
5. Calf Transportation: Having a calf-hauler on the ranch (read: modified sled) can help easily and efficiently transport sick calves to a warm, dry barn.
6. Sick Calf Protocol: Having a prepared plan for sick calves can make all the difference. Know the normal vital parameters (heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature) for healthy calves. Discuss with your veterinarian a protocol of treatments that you can do on the ranch, and when its time to call the vet. Keep precise records of treatments, which also helps for future planning.
7. When to Call the Vet: Waiting too long can often be the difference in a calf’s survival. Calves with diarrhea (especially bloody), umbilical infections, or calves unable to rise are medical emergencies and should be attended to by a veterinarian.
Calving season is promising time full of fresh, young life, but is also extremely demanding to keep these little creatures healthy. Planning and being prepared will help your calving season be successful!