Calving season are two words that should bring some excitement to everyone’s mind. Now hopefully that excitement is only due to the new calves hitting the ground and finally seeing your careful planning starting to pay off, and not due to a disaster in progress. While we can’t control a lot of the things that happen during calving, a little forward planning can make the whole process a little more calm.
Let’s start with your genetic planning. If you included some calving information in your bull selection, is it turning out the way you planned? Do you record the calving ease and note the difference between different bulls? Differences in cow families? If you aren’t weighing all or some of the calves don’t talk about birth weights because you basically don’t know. Newborns will fool you on weight and most are heavier than you think. If you have great big cows are you calving enough birth weight? The die is cast for this year-now you can only monitor and use that information in your next year’s bull selection.
1 - Your calving quarters
Do you have an area away from the rest of the cows for calving? In nature a cow will go off on her own to calve, as this helps the bonding process. We have all seen a cow try to steal another calf while she’s calving. This is due to the hormones in her system making her very accepting of any calf (we can use this when trying to replace a calf born dead). If she is by herself, she will calve out quicker because she is disturbed less. This includes disturbances by you.
2 - Know your abilities
In other words don’t start something you can’t finish. Know that you are looking for two front feet (soles facing down) and a nose and then usually get out of the way. If you have given her a while to calve and there is no progress, then check, but most of us jump in too quick. If you do need to assist know where the calving chains are and how to put them on. Then pull with the cow, as she pushes, not continuously. If the calf is backward draping it over the cow or a bale is sufficient to drain the fluid from the lungs. (You don’t need to throw it over a gate).
3 - Calving Kit
Do you have the things you will need, in some easily carried, hopefully waterproof container? A fish tackle box or tool box works well. In your record book- be it BIO-or breed-or whatever, record who calved, heifer or bull, weight, problems, udderscore, mothering ability, calf vigor or whatever you deem will be useful. If needling with Vit.E/selenium do you have new needles-- remember in the neck-not in the rump! Ear Tag, tattoo, castrate? Also the vet’s phone number and some towels- washed frequently. Baby wet-wipes — good for cleaning up your hands. Talk to your vet for his suggestions for your kit.
4 - Emergency colostrum
This is an essential and is best if frozen from one of your own cows. Freeze in ice cube trays or thin layers to help thaw quickly. Careful with that micro wave--warm water is better for thawing. If using a neighbors’ dairy colostrum remember you need a lot more due to the higher water content. Use a bag or esophageal feeder - ($20-$30, see your vet) as it makes life easier on you and the calf.
5 - Follow up
Once the cow and calf are mothered up and bonded make sure they go to a place that includes a draft free dry spot for the calf to get into. Keep the cows so that the udders stay clean-so you don’t shove germs down the calf’s throat with every meal. Make sure everyone who will be helping to calve knows your plan (Why not use a checklist — then there will be less of “I thought you did that — no I thought you did that”) So talk to your Vet — talk to each other and then hopefully sit back and enjoy the excitement of those good new calves!