Although the summer heat makes it hard to think about fall, those producers who utilize fall calving as a management option likely already have calves on the ground. Fall calving cows are known to calve earlier than expected and with this year’s soaring temps, those calves might even have arrived earlier than usual.
There are definite benefits to fall calving. A key advantage is that cows will spend their last days of gestation grazing summer pastures and will typically calve at a higher body condition – something to keep in mind when developing a feeding program for those lactating mama cows.
Other rewards include more manageable feed costs associated with resources available in the fall like cool-season grasses and crop residues/aftermath that is available post-harvest. Additionally, grazing situations like cover crops and winter wheat might be an option, depending on the location where you’re operating.
More marketing opportunities generally exist if you fall calve. If you calve in both the spring and fall, your bulls can cover more cows over two breeding seasons. Fall-born calves weaned in the spring can be retained through the feedlot or you can graze them on your own grass. Marketing opportunities are again dependent on location.
Mother Nature can be more tolerable for fall-calving herds. Calves won’t suffer from frozen ears, tails or hypothermia. Weather patterns are typically more predictable in the fall, and the cooler temperatures are more appealing for rebreeding – both for semen production in the bull and fertility in the female.
Although the list of benefits is plentiful, there are also challenges that come with fall calving. Yes, you might not have frozen ears or tails, but especially with this year’s heat, you can battle temperatures on the other end of the spectrum. Calves can get over heated and run fevers with the heat indexes that many regions of the country have been experiencing lately.
Flies are another challenge that producers face with fall calving. These little pests can cause big problems for a newborn calf. Biting flies like stable and horn flies are especially attracted to the embryonic fluid on newborn calves and will gather on their toplines or around their naval and bite away at the fresh flesh. If fly populations are heavy, this can result in death. A good mother will get the calf cleaned off promptly; otherwise, you need to keep a close eye on your calf for bites.
Calving time is always exciting, so make sure you are ready for your fall calves to arrive. As mentioned earlier, it is normal for the fall calves to come early, so start checking on the cows about two weeks before due dates, especially in the heat.
Provide plenty of shade for your cows to calve under – either natural or man-made structures so the cows and calves are not out in direct sunlight. It is not necessary to calve indoors, as that will typically not offer enough airflow, and that is where sickness occurs. Also try to keep the area clean and dry to help control flies.
Provide plenty of fresh, clean, cool water to your cows. Labor, delivery and beginning lactation is stressful. She is going to need more water than normal to keep hydrated and provide adequate nutrition for her new calf.
It is easy for a calf to get over heated, especially in the late summer and early fall days. Normal body temperature of calves is about 101.5. If your calf does have a fever, try soaking it in a water bath to cool off. If that doesn’t work, you may need to consult your veterinarian.
Good nutrition is at the root of your herd’s wellbeing. BioZyme® makes products to help mitigate heat stress while controlling flies in both the cows and their progeny.
Vitaferm® Concept•Aid® 5/S HEAT® with ClariFly® would be an ideal vitamin and mineral supplement to feed during fall calving. This free-choice vitamin and mineral package is specifically designed for reproductive success when fed 60 days pre-calving through 60 days post-breeding and contains HEAT to help prevent heat stress during temperatures of 70 degrees and above, or anytime cattle are grazing fescue and includes ClariFly® to stop flies in their larval stage, including both horn flies and stable flies. The HEAT package also contains garlic, considered a natural insect deterrent.
Another product that can be useful for calves is a Vita Charge® Stress Tub HEAT®. Many producers put these in their creep feeding pens for calves to get a jump start on their nutrition, and to help mitigate heat stress and help naturally repel insects. Both the VitaFerm and Vita Charge products contain Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to combat stress and maintain performance during heat stress by supporting the animal’s own immune system, significantly increasing intake and nutrient utilization.
The temperatures might feel like summer, but it’s time to plan for fall calving. Make your fall calving as stress free as possible for you, your cows and their new babies with proper shade, plenty of water and good nutrition with the Amaferm advantage.