Pre-Season Calving Checklist

7 Ways to Prepare for Calving Season

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Being prepared for the calving season ahead of time can minimize losses and reduce stress -- both on cattle and humans. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

OMAHA (DTN) -- While some calves are already on the ground, many more will be born in the coming weeks and months. Being prepared for calving season will not stop all problems from happening, but it can help the season go more smoothly.

In a post titled "Preparing for the Calving Season," University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension Beef Educator Aaron Berger discusses areas cow-calf producers can review ahead of the calving season (…). These range from nutrition to making sure calving facilities are in good shape and ready to be used.

Berger listed seven ways producers can be ready to go for the upcoming calving season.

1. Pay attention to nutrition needs of bred heifers or cows prior to calving.

Having heifers and cows in good body condition before calving is important, as it affects stamina during delivery, colostrum quality, calf vigor and rebreeding. Adequate nutrition during the last trimester of pregnancy and especially the last 50-60 days prior to calving is extremely critical.

Two-year-old heifers and 3-year-old cows are vulnerable during this time frame. These young females are still growing themselves while also having a growing calf inside them.

2. Review your herd health plan with your veterinarian.

Discuss with your veterinarian the whole production system to identify critical control points where management could reduce risk and cost effectively improve health. Specifically, address herd health issues that have been problems in the past.

3. Examine calving facilities to make sure they are in good working order.

If calving facilities have not been used for a while, inspect gates, pens, alleys and head catches and fix or replace broken items. Give facilities a good cleaning and disinfecting before calving season starts.

Also, make sure your calving facility has good lighting. Check lights and have replacement bulbs on hand.

4. Check your calving supplies and review the stages of parturition (calving) to understand when assistance is needed.

Make sure you are well stocked when it comes to calving supplies, including hand plastic sleeves, obstetrical lube, obstetrical chains and straps, esophageal feeders and calf feeding bottles. Test flashlights and spotlights to make sure they are working. Make sure the fetal extractor (calf puller) is clean and working properly.

Review the stages of calving and understand when further examining and assisting a heifer or cow is needed. Many online resources are available with this subject.

5. Have colostrum or colostrum replacement products on hand.

Quality colostrum consumption by the calf shortly after birth is foundational for the health of the calf throughout its life. It is a good practice to immediately milk out a heifer or cow when she is assisted at calving and provide this colostrum to the calf.

If quality or quantity of the colostrum is a concern, other sources can be used. Use caution when bringing outside sources of colostrum into the herd, as disease transfer can occur. The best source of colostrum is from within your herd.

Colostrum replacement products can be utilized. Visit with your veterinarian about which colostrum products are best for your operation.

6. Have a plan and equipment for warming calves if calving during cold weather.

Calves born during cold, wet conditions can quickly succumb to hypothermia. Have facilities, tools and supplies on hand to deal with this type of event.

7. Plan to provide wind protection along with a clean, dry environment.

Wet, muddy conditions are stressful to both cows and calves. When possible, have a clean and dry place for calves and cows to lay down. This will reduce stress and promote calf health.

DTN posted two articles last month on livestock windbreaks to protect animals from extreme weather conditions. You can find them here… and here….

For more information on management practices to improve calving success, visit….

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Russ Quinn