Planning for everything that might prevent a successful spring calving season is a tall order, but a checklist can help you cover all the bases.
It starts with making sure the cows have good body condition scores. Dr. Patrick Davis, Regional Livestock Specialist and Cedar County Program Director for University of Missouri Extension, told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor condition scores should be evaluated about 60 days prior to calving. “Cows should calve at a body condition score of 6,” Davis said, “which will allow them the ability to lose one body condition score from calving to breeding and still be at body condition score 5, the optimum body condition score for conception.”
The feeding pattern can also influence when the cows will calve. Research in Iowa found 85 percent of cows fed once daily at dusk calved between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., because the pattern caused the cows’ intraruminal pressure to increase at night and decrease during the day. Davis recommended beginning this supplementation strategy about 1 to 2 weeks before the expected calving time of the herd.
Once the calf is born, make sure that it is healthy and active and that it nurses to get the full amount of colostrum. Spring born calves may be born during very cold temperatures, increasing the potential for them to develop frostbite or to freeze to death. Davis said the producer should have a warming area or warming box available, and be prepared to provide extra colostrum or electrolytes to calves that have experienced cold or other stresses during birth.
It’s also important to make sure cows are in proper health and up-to-date on their vaccination status, because they pass those conditions along to the newborn calf through the colostrum. You should consult a veterinarian to develop a cow vaccination schedule that fits your cattle operation. In addition, Dr. Tom Troxel, associate head-animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, told OFN, “To prevent calf scours, you can vaccinate your cow prior to calving. If you’ve had problems with calf scours in the past, that’s one thing that you might want to consider.”
Shelter can also be important; Troxel said calving areas should be clean and dry, and should be in close proximity to shelter if weather is a concern. “If they have a group of heifers that are calving for the first time, it’s very important to keep those heifers up close to the house or to the barn, so the producer can check those heifers and provide assistance if that’s important,” he said. “Places like maternity pens with a head gate, a crowding alley and nursing panels might also be very important.”
Among the supplies Troxel recommended producers have on hand for calving season were O.B. chain straps, iodine and a tube feeder. Add to that towels that might be needed to dry off a chilled calf, a good light source so you can see what you’re doing, and tags or tattoo equipment so you will be able to match up the cow and the calf later on.
And, Davis added, “Develop a plan for when the cow is calving. This should include what to do, when to do it, how to do it, who to call if there is trouble and you need help, and how to know when there is trouble and you need help. This plan should be posted throughout the barn, along with phone numbers of people to call if you need help.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here