Prepare for the Worst During Fall Calving

VitaFerm Tips for Fall Calving

Source: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service – Northeast District’s Timely Topics

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar is quoted saying “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” Most cattle producers do a really good job with management while expecting the best but sometimes we lack on preparing for the worst. There are steps that each producer can take to prepare for an “easy” calving season.

Proper Nutrition

Prior to calving we need to be mindful of our herd’s nutritional needs. Monitoring the cows’ body condition is the best indicator for proper nutrition. It is recommended to have cows calving in a body condition score of at least 5 and heifers calving in a BCS of 6. This recommendation is based on the ability for the female to recuperate from the stress of calving and be ready once breeding season begins.

Producers should be advised to avoid the BCS extremes. If a female is in a low BCS, she may not have the energy and strength to give birth without complications. On the other hand, if a female is in an extremely high BCS she may have too much fat taking up space around the birthing canal and could increase the incidence of dystocia. Research has also shown that the better nutrition that the cow is in at calving the better the quality of colostrum will be for the calf. By passing more immunoglobulins will ensure a stronger immune system for the calf.

Adequate Facilities

While preparing for the worst, producers need to think about problems that might arise at 2 o’clock in the morning. Midnight is not the time to start thinking about gathering panels and moving cattle closer to the working facilities. Calving areas should be clean and close to the handling facility.

It is recommended to calve out on a grass pasture that has not been grazed in at least two months. This allows time to eliminate harmful bacteria from the pasture before baby calves are born.

If assistance is needed, the handling facility needs to have a way to properly restrain the cow that is safe for the cow and handler. Although it may not always be possible, it is recommended that the facility have a clean concrete floor, access to hot and cold water, and good lighting. Several equipment manufacturers have developed a calving pen that has a head gate to capture the pregnant female without squeezing her body. This pen allows for access to assist with the birth and access to both sides of the female to allow the calf to nurse.

Clean Tools

Much like having clean facilities, having your calving tools clean and readily available will eliminate a lot of headache. The tools that are recommended to have available are: OB sleeves, lots of lube, OB chains, OB handles, a calf jack, a stainless steel bucket, a sterilizing solution (Nolvasan or Betadine), and possibly a head snare. These tools will allow producers to assist most females that incur problems.

Producers should learn how to properly use these tools safely. Some may notice that a four-wheeler or tractor was not on that list, it is because you should never use anything besides one to two people pulling to assist at birth. If the job cannot be accomplished by pulling with the chains or calf jack, you should contact a veterinarian. Pulling too hard can cause significant damage to the female.


Preparing to keep good records is the easiest thing to do on the list. Have a calving book ready or have spreadsheets ready to record all calving information possible. If you never record your calving information then you can never go back and look at any of the important data you might need for culling or selection. Some important information you will need are the calf’s individual identification, birth date, birth weight and sex. The hardest record to keep on that list is the birth weight because not everyone has scales set up to weigh every calf, but the use of a hoof tape will allow producers to closely estimate the calf’s birth weight without ever lifting the animal. Producers will also want to record any assistance that was needed and any other notes relating to calving ease and calf vigor.

Pounds of calf weaned per exposed female is the ultimate measure of a herd’s efficiency; therefore, we need to all we can do to ensure that every calf hits the ground running. Spending an hour on the planning of your upcoming calving season could eliminate several hours of work when time is crucial.

A note from BioZyme’s nutrition team: 

Calving season is an important time of year for all producers. Not only are you focused on getting a healthy calf on the ground, but you must also ensure your cows are providing adequate nutrition to a growing calf and that they breed back in a timely fashion. Biozyme® has several products catered to improving a herd’s reproductive performance through nutrition to help you get calving off without a hitch.

VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® is a highly bioavailable, free-choice vitamin and mineral supplement for beef cattle specifically designed to target cycling, embryo production and conception when fed 30 days prior to calving through breeding. Concept•Aid® provides the balanced levels of high quality vitamins and minerals required for optimal growth, breeding and calving. Providing adequate vitamin, mineral, and trace mineral supplementation are research proven to positively impact fertility.

Improved digestibility of feedstuffs seen through the use of Amaferm® will allow females to more efficiency utilize feedstuffs, especially low quality forages, resulting in improved body condition scores and increased milk production. Likewise, more thorough utilization of forages and feeds, along with a high quality vitamin and mineral source, will better equip cows and heifers to maintain their condition more efficient while nursing calves and improve the chances of your females breeding back sooner.

Are your calves off to a slow start? Try the Vita Charge® Gel. These products will provide a jump start to the digestive system during times of stress. Vita Charge contains Amaferm to stimulate appetite and nutrient digestion, as well as organic trace minerals and high amounts of vitamins A, D, and B to allow calves to recover quickly without interfering with antibiotics.

An exceptional nutritional package, combined with the Amaferm advantage, make VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® and Vita Charge products a definite “must have” during calving season to help cattle producers improve their reproductive efficiency and overall herd performance.

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