An Essential Guide to Spring Calving
Spring calving season is finally here. Though this is certainly one of the most labor-intensive times of the year for cattle ranchers, it’s also one of the most important. Being adequately prepared will help reduce stress on the cow and calf as well as on your calving crew, resulting in healthier cattle and more productive staff. Below, we’ve put together a few tips to help ensure a successful spring calving season for all.
Preparing for Calving Season
One necessary way to prepare for spring calving season is by keeping your facilities clean. Whether you are calving in pastures or in a barn, it’s vital that the calving area is as sanitary as possible, as a clean environment minimizes health risks for newborn calves. Clean pens and calving areas regularly, and make sure that fresh bedding is provided.
Another important way to prepare for calving season is making sure that you have the right equipment and supplies well before any calves arrive. Keep an inventory of supplies and purchase any items you might need, such as taggers or a milk replacer. Now is also a good time to purchase any supplies or equipment that you may need for calf care later on, like a calf table or calf feeder. Make sure that any equipment you already have is disinfected and in working order.
It’s also important to monitor cows and heifers closely during calving. Cattle should be monitored at least every four hours, though this may become more frequent as the majority of calving occurs. In addition, you’ll need to make sure that cows are getting proper nutrition, especially during the third trimester, to ensure that they are achieving proper weight gain before calving.
Calf Feeding and Nutrition
Colostrum plays a significant role in getting calves off to a healthy start. If there are calving difficulties or a heifer isn’t producing enough milk, it will be important to have colostrum on hand to supplement calf nutrition. If you are near a dairy that has a herd with good health protocols, you could buy fresh colostrum from the farm. However, there are also dry, powdered colostrum replacers that you can purchase from your vet or a feed store that provide a viable alternative.
Your calving crew needs to monitor calves closely immediately after calving. They will need to make sure that each calf has stood and nursed. If the calf does not nurse within the first two hours after birth, then someone will need to administer colostrum within that time frame via an esophageal feeder or a nursing bottle. Veterinarians typically recommend that newborn calves get at least one to two quarts within the first four hours of birth.
Vaccinations and Medical Care
Scours is one of the leading causes of calf fatalities in most spring herds. By administering a scours vaccine to cattle before calving, you can reduce the chances of this disease impacting newly born calves. Typically, the scours vaccine is administered to cattle at least 16 weeks before calving with a booster shot given a few weeks before calving to boost the colostrum. But timing may vary depending on a number of factors.
Some veterinarians may also recommend a respiratory vaccine or vaccines to cover vibrio and leptospirosis. There are a number of different variables that can impact the type of vaccines you will need to administer to cattle before or during calving season. Speak with your vet about the best vaccination protocol for your cattle.