Jan 07, 2020

With calving season approaching, it is important to be ready for whatever, whenever calves begin to hit the ground. From preparing your cows for their increased nutritional demands to taking inventory on calving supplies, this checklist can help you in preparing for the season ahead.

1. Bred Cows' Nutrition

The last 60 days prior to calving stand as the most crucial to the calf’s health and performance. Agtegra feed division manager Scott Kilber notes a few feed recommendations for cows as calving nears:
● Availa 4 – Quality mineral with Availa 4 should be fed during the last trimester through the first 2 months after calving
● Rumensin – Fed prior to calving, Rumensin helps clean up the cocci shed by the cow and provides a cleaner environment for the calf to be born
● Diamond V yeast – Improves colostrum quality and quantity, increases antibodies in the colostrum to provide the calf with a stronger immune status after initial nursing, and should be fed 30 days prior to calving
● Body Condition Score (BCS): The cow must be in good shape and have an optimal BCS of 5-6 in order to provide for her calf and recover from calving. The closer the cow is to calving, the more difficult it becomes to increase BCS. Therefore, steps taken early in the pregnancy to increase BCS will result in a female nearer the optimal score
● Energy requirements: With all the wet, lightweight corn available this year, it may be a good idea to feed a little of it to boost energy levels of cows’ diets
● Forage: With forage quality all over the board this past year, hay values have seen some poor energy values. As a result, some additional energy will be needed, such as from corn, distillers, or higher quality hay
● Protein: Colostrum quality can also be affected by the protein level in the diet. Be sure to have cow diets at 9 – 10% protein the last 30 days pre-calving.

2. Stock Up on Calving Supplies

As each operation differs from one to the other, be sure to have a conversation with your herd veterinarian on what supplies are necessary for your operation in terms of vaccines or treatments that should be given to your calves upon birth. This will determine which products you should have on hand during calving season. Having a quality electrolyte on hand is also essential in preparing for potential illnesses in calves.

Other supplies needed in calving depend on the operation, but some to keep in mind include:
● Iodine
● Birthweight scale
● Warming box (check for cleanliness and maintenance prior to calving)
● Drench gun & oral probiotic Calf Insure® (recommended to be administered a few days after calving to jumpstart immune system.)
● OB sleeves & lube
● Antibiotic of first choice
● Electrolytes
● Colostrum Replacement
● Esophageal feeder/ Clean bottle and nipple
● Fetal extractor & obstetrical chains/strap

3. Colostrum Replacement

Colostrum replacement is an important item to have on hand during calving season when calves have difficulty receiving colostrum soon after birth. Land O Lakes® Colostrum Replacement should be administered when a calf has not received colostrum or when in doubt that the calf received it, such as with an old cow, a bad bag, calf was dropped in a snow bank, or with 1st calf heifers.

Other products to have on hand include electrolytes, such as Land O Lakes® Electrolyte or Hydra-lyte. Warmed electrolytes may benefit a chilled calf more than milk. Calf Insure, as noted in the supply list above, is a must for 1st calf heifers and any calves born with stress.

4. Calving Facilities

Keeping calving pens clean can be difficult due to the weather. Therefore, keeping cows out of these pens until calving allows for the pens to stay clean until they are needed. Keeping bedding dry amidst the snow is also important for calves to stay warm and dry upon arrival. Utilizing an area for calves to stay warm away from the cows is also important, such as with a calf shelter or a barn with a creep gate across the door.

Taking the necessary steps to prepare for calving can mean healthier calves and a more successful calving season.

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