As we head into the last week of February, calving season is just beginning in Iowa, and cattle producers are keeping one eye on the weather and the other eye on their cows. Iowa State University Extension beef veterinarian Grant Dewell offers the following five tips on how producers can help the calving season be as successful as possible, regardless of weather.
1) Be ready: This is likely the most important aspect of the whole process. Clean calving areas, make sure plenty of bedding is available and gather supplies, including calf chains, calf puller, bucket, disinfectant, lubricant and heat lamps.
2) Watch females closely: You should be checking females on a regular basis (at least every four hours) for evidence of parturition. Losing a calf at calving because the cow was not assisted in time is like throwing away $600.
3) Milk colostrum from dystocia cows for immediate feeding: Dystocia calves, those born from difficult labor, will have a prolonged time before they stand and nurse so it is imperative to have colostrum available immediately. Milk some colostrum from the cow while she is caught up to have it ready for that calf.
4) Segregate cows: Segregate cows into at least three groups (pregnant cows, neonatal calves and cows, and older calves and cows). Calves between one and 21 days of life are most at risk of disease, so keeping these high-risk calves separate from the others in the herd can decrease disease incidence. If you have a disease outbreak, be prepared to keep this youngest group of calves isolated from all other calves.
5) Consider calving later in the year: Calves do better when calved in the clean, dry and warm environment of June rather than March. Also, green grass will better meet cows' energy needs during peak lactation. For more information, producers can contact their ISU Extension beef program specialist or read information on the Iowa Beef Center website at www.iowabeefcenter.org.
IBC was established in 1996 with the goal of supporting the growth and vitality of the state's beef cattle industry. It comprises faculty and staff from ISU Extension, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine, and works to develop and deliver the latest research-based information regarding the beef cattle industry. For more information about IBC visit www.iowabeefcenter.org.