5 things to consider before calving this year!
Spring calving is fast approaching. Preparing what you can beforehand will make sure you are ready for all this season throws at you! Follow our top tips for success:
When cows are calving indoors, there is potential disease such as clostridial diseases to spread, so cleanliness is key. Consider disinfecting the area if necessary, also to help against bacteria and protozoal pathogens such as coccidiosis.
Calves are highly susceptible to an unhygienic environment. When the calf is born, ensure navel hygiene; applying strong Iodine BP to disinfect and dry out the navel. Ensuring all calves receive sufficient colostrum helps to prevent disease.
Ensure all equipment used for calving has been suitably disinfected including calving ropes, bottles and feeding equipment and wear gloves when assisting with calving.
Colostrum is one of if not the most important consideration at calving time. Although in a suckler herd, calves will get their colostrum from mum, it is important to ensure that this is optimised.
Ensure cows have been fed sufficient protein and energy prior to calving to produce good quality colostrum.
Calves should receive three litres (or 10% body weight) of good quality colostrum within the first two hours after birth. If you have not seen a calf suckle, helping them to get cows colostrum or supplementing them is worthwhile. Consider saving quality colostrum in the freezer for these situations. A refractometer will help you measure the quality of the cow’s colostrum.
Your ‘farm team’ is essential to the success of your business, so it’s important that they are involved in planning and know what the procedures are. Before calving get the team together, this could also include your vet, to discuss calving management including when to assist, colostrum protocol and health contingency planning - before it’s too late.
Calving involves working at any hour day or night, and while tiredness is somewhat unavoidable it is important to keep your team safe at all times. Making sure your team is confident with procedures will ensure a successful calving and ensure everyone is safe.
There is some great technology nowadays to make life that bit easier such as calving cameras – but remember this does not replace herdsmanship.
To ensure they are in positive energy balance and can support their own nutritional requirements and milk production, high energy feed for post-calving cows is important, along with calf milk replacer in case any cows cannot support milk production. Remember that good cows colostrum is best, you can store it in the freezer for when its needed. If you need to use a replacement make sure its a colostrum replacer rather than a supplement.
Outside of delivering a healthy calf, accurately recording the births is the most important task of the calving period, and a critical step to achieving the easy calving objective. You can record this in whatever way is easiest for you, providing you capture the following information to help you identify trends in performance that will inform your future breeding decisions:
- Passport number / EID
- Calving performance
- Birth weight
- Offspring vigour
Save time by planning ahead, log your medicines into the virtual medicine cabinet in the Breedr app before calving starts. That way you can log the dose against the animal at the scene and Breedr will automatically update your medicine book and cabinet report, ready for your next Red Tractor audit.
TIME SAVING TIP: Every time you log a birth in the Breedr mobile app it creates a movement ready to approve and send to BCMS/ScotMoves, saving you hours or paperwork and admin.