You made breeding decisions months ago and have been patiently waiting for nine more months to see the outcome of your diligent planning. Yet, researching and plotting breeding decisions is only half the battle. When calving season comes, it is time to plan all the important details that help deliver your calf crop and ensure they are thriving from day one. Regardless of when you calve, fall or spring, we offer four tips to make sure you are prepared for the approaching calving season.
1. Prepare Your Calving Kit
There is nothing like getting the first calf on the ground, then scrambling trying to find the tools or supplies you need to assist a successful delivery or get a calf going. Make time prior to the first due date to check your inventory and see what has gone missing or needs to be replaced or updated.
VitaFerm® has prepared an online checklist of important supplies and equipment that you will need for assisting with deliveries, getting the calf up and going and properly treating calves as well as information on where to purchase these items. View the checklist.
2. Protect Cows and Calves from the Elements
With the variety of weather extremes that producers experience across the country, its best to be prepared for all situations, and that starts with understanding the circumstances that apply to your herd.
First, consider if you are calving out mostly cows or first-calf heifers. First timers aren’t always the best about finding the most ideal spot to calve in. In that regard, evaluate your facilities and decide if you need to lock first-time calvers in or create new calving pens or corrals. If you do not have the facilities or equipment to do so, be sure to have a calving check schedule so that you can keep an eye on the herd frequently.
Next, consider the exact weather circumstances you may be up against. If you are encountering snow and cold winds, be sure to have sheltered areas where momma cows can get in and bed down or have large windbreaks to provide strong wind and snow drift protection. Be sure you have taken an inventory of available bedding options such as straw, shavings, chips, etc. Ensuring that you have plenty of dry areas in your pens with protection from the wind can make the difference in calf survival, especially once winter arrives and wind chills dip. In contrast, if you come from a warmer climate or you calve later in the spring, consider providing shade or covered areas for the cows and calves to get out of the heat. If your mommas are in a pasture with a pond or flowing body of water, consider locking them up away from the pond to avoid calving situations near standing water.
3. Get That Calf Up and Going
Once the calf is on the ground you want to ensure that it has the best start to life possible. You should always consult with your veterinarian about health protocols and your nutritionist about a feeding program. To reduce stress, look for ways to accomplish many processing tasks at once, such as tagging, vaccinations and navel care.
Another way to ensure your calf gets the proper start is to keep fast-acting calf supplementation on hand. It might be a good idea to always have a supply of colostrum in case of emergencies. Two other products that should be readily available for your newborns include Vita Charge® Gel and Vita Charge Neonatal. Both products provide a jump-start to the digestive system to protect calves during stress and help calves recover quickly while supporting immunity and performance. Vita Charge Gel also provides the perfect boost for mom if the delivery was stressful.
4. Help Cows Recover with Nutrition
Calving is stressful on the cow. Whether you have first-time heifers or seasoned cows, calving season puts a lot of stress on your females, and they will need some assistance nutritionally to stay in good shape and condition to provide for the calf at side. You should consult a nutritionist to help with your supplement or ration needs. Here’s a few more nutritional considerations to keep top of mind:
- Feed higher quality hay (with more energy) and expect cows to increase intake during cold stress. Without a forage analysis, you cannot be exactly sure of your hay’s energy level, which can lead to inadequate nutrition. BioZyme® offers complimentary hay testing and nutrition analysis to its customers and potential customers through its nationwide dealer network and Area Sales Managers. For more information, visit https://vitaferm.com/hay-report/.
- Feed a supplement that contains BioZyme’s prebiotic Amaferm®to improve digestibility of feed and help ensure that they are extracting all of the energy possible. Research shows that feeding a supplement that contains Amaferm has similar benefits to feeding at least 1lb. of grain.
- Consider moving cows to locations with protection from the wind and wet weather. The energy requirement of beef cattle increases about 3% for each degree that the wind chill is below 59 degrees F. This increases even further in wet conditions and prior to fully developing a winter hair coat. This is a major reason programs fail during an abnormally severe winter.
- Match animal nutrition requirements to the quality of your forage. Heifers and thin cows require a more energy-dense diet, compared to older or fleshy cows. Sorting animals into groups based on body condition allows you to feed the available forage more effectively. Start by targeting your higher quality, more immature forages toward heifers and thin cows. These earlier harvested forages will be the most energy dense as energy declines considerably with maturity. The older and higher body condition cows can then be fed slightly more mature forage. This allows you to maximize the use of your forage supply while better targeting the nutritional needs of your entire herd.
- A good guideline during an extended cold or wet winter period is to feed 3-6 lbs. of energy supplements like soyhulls, corn gluten feed, or corn to avoid weight loss during these stressful periods.
Calving season is much less stressful when you plan ahead and enter into it with a strategy. Both your cows and calves will need some assistance to be successful and recover, so plan to have the tools you need to help your calves get a jump-start and your momma cows to bounce back quickly. This is just the beginning of your next adventure of seeing your genetics grow in your herd, and with some nutritional advantages along the way, you’ll be sure to see performance that pays.