Winter is here, fall breeding is completed, spring calving cows are in their third trimester and the next big event on the farm (with exception of the winter chores everybody loves) is spring calving. This is arguably the most crucial time of year for most operations, so it is pertinent to be prepared to have calves hitting the ground at least a month prior to your first calving date. The subsequent practices should be considered when preparing for the upcoming calving season.
One of the first things to consider, is getting together all the supplies you will need for calving, otherwise known as a calving kit. This kit should include things such as: mild liquid soap, paper towels, at least two clean buckets to be later filled with warm water, obstetrical sleeves, lubricant, iodine, a notepad to record calf details and any dystocia issues, and calving assist tools (such as chains, handles, or head snare). Hopefully, the last one will not be needed, and should only be used by experienced professionals.
Calving facilities should also be prepared well in advance of calving season. If these are single use areas that have not been used in months make sure to inspect all alleys, gates, and head catches. For a multi-purpose area ensure that the space is ready for calving. Have good lighting and have replacement bulbs on hand. These facilities should also have clean, dry bedding and be in good working order. Dirty and muddy bedding is a breeding ground for bacteria and as a result, can be detrimental to the health of newborn calves.
The final trimester is a great time to vaccinate cows with a killed-virus vaccine to promote immune health. This boost of immunity from the vaccination creates antibodies that pass from the cow to the calf through colostrum. This brings me to my final point of ensuring that each calf consumes at least one quart of colostrum within 6-12 hours of birth. Absorption of immunoglobulin found in colostrum drastically decreases after this window. Making it critical to insure adequate consumption during this time. If there are any issues with the quality or quantity of colostrum other sources, such as colostrum replacements can be utilized. If outside sources of colostrum are being introduced in the herd it can promote disease transfer, so it is best to use colostrum from within your own herd.
For more information on planning for calving season reach me, Connor Biehler, at my office (402)624-8007 or my cell (402)413-8557 or follow my twitter page @BigRedBeefTalk for more information on Nebraska Beef Extension.
Beef Systems Asst. Extension Educator
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Eastern Nebraska Research & Extension Center