Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Pre-Calving Preparations

Kari Lewis
With this week’s snowstorm and calving on the horizon, I’ve been thinking calving preparations.  I
know many folks are already underway, with lots more to start in the next month or so.  Today I’ll share some reminders of things to check on before calving starts.

·         Clean, well bedded pens - If you have a calving shed you will potentially be using, make sure the pens are cleaned with fresh straw.  Having clean pens to calve in is crucial to reducing disease transmission and giving calves a healthier start to their life. 
·         For the potential calving problems, locate and clean the calf chains and calf puller, and make sure you have gloves, obstetrical lube, disinfectant, buckets, halters, and ropes handy.  Along these lines, having the number for the vet in your phone or somewhere easy to find is also a good idea!
·         Lighting - Do you have enough flashlights in good working order, and are outside flood lights in good condition, and are there replacement bulbs around if needed?
·         For the calf that is slow to start nursing or for the twin that is bound to come, do you have a tube feeder, milk bottle, colostrum replacer, and fresh milk replacer on hand?  If you have leftover supplies from last year, check the expiration date to see if you need to update your inventory.
o   When purchasing colostrum replacer, make sure it is a replacer, and not a colostrum supplement.  Colostrum supplements do not contain sufficient quantities of antibodies to raise the blood immunoglobin level in calves beyond what average quality colostrum will do. Colostrum replacers contains greater levels of immunoglobins and other nutrients and provides an effective, convenient method of providing passive immunity to calves when maternal colostrum is not available.
·         For identification - do you have enough ear tags and markers ready?  Do you have a calving book available to record calves born in?  If not, your local Extension office may still have a few of the IRM red books available.
·         Check your facilities.  Are pens, alleys, and head catches in working order?  Do you need to move panels around or set up additional pens?  Do gates swing when they should and have a working chain to latch for when they shouldn’t swing? 
·         Wind protection - Are there boards in your windbreaks that need to be replaced?  Are calf shelters in good condition?  A clean, dry environment will go a long ways towards creating calving success.  A windbreak can even be as simple as stacking straw bales in a pasture to allow cattle a place to get out of the wind.
·         For moving calves, if you use a calf sled, is it located and is it clean?
·         Do you have a plan for warming up chilled calves?  If you have a calf warmer, is it in working condition?  Is the needed extension cord with it? 

The challenges that comes with trying to find equipment when it’s cold and calves are on the way only adds to the frustration.  I hope you’ll take some time now to help have a successful and organized calving season!

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