LeeAnn Waugh

by LeeAnn Waugh

Ready or not, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

It’s cold outside! Have your calving pens and calf creep areas well bedded. In cold weather, straw will provide more insulation and heat to the calf, more so than corn stalks would.  The stem of the straw will reflect heat back to the calf to help keep it warm.  Dry bedding underneath the calf will also provide more insulation than wet bedding. Remember, you’re dealing with babies.

If you are calving in the winter, a calf warmer is great investment.  Check to make sure the heater and fan are working properly.  Quickly getting the newborn calf dry and warm in cold weather will help to get it off to a strong start.

Calf processing checklist:

– 2018 Calving book, record calves, treatment, and any other issues you face this year.  Then read through it next year to you prepare.

– ID Tags and working tagger(s).  Make sure all equipment is in working order and it’s always good to have a backup tagger or “plan B” in case the first one fails.

– Bander & new bands. Bands can dry out, crack and break if they get old, so be sure to have new ones on hand.

– Dipping the navel with disinfectant will help the navel dry up sooner and help prevent bacteria from entering through the umbilical cord.  Strong iodine or chlorhexidine solution works well.

– Colostrum and a CLEAN feeder

– Calf puller and chains.  Have them clean and disinfected.

– OB Gloves

– Electrolytes

– Antibodies and probiotics.  Loading the newborn calf’s gut with antibodies, probiotics and prebiotics will provide a strong defense against viruses and bacteria such as e coli.  It will also help stimulate the calf’s appetite as well as enhancing its ability to digest and absorb nutrients.

Are your cows and first-calf heifers ready?

Keep cows clean.  A clean hair coat reduces energy requirements for the cow and reduces the bacteria exposure for the newborn calf.  Cows with manure hanging from their legs and underline can require up to 20% more energy to maintain body condition.  This will also expose a nursing calf to more bacteria and can even confuse them as to where to nurse.

Are your cows in the proper body condition to deliver and nurse a calf, provide good quality colostrum and breed back in a timely manner?  At calving time, target a minimum body condition score of a 6.  Keep in mind that young first-calf heifers are still growing, nursing a calf and in 10-12 weeks will be getting bred back, so they need extra energy.  If you can, feed them separately.  If you can’t, think about overfeeding your cows to insure your heifers are getting adequate nutrition.

Other options include supplementing with Accuration tubs.  Accuration tubs provide free choice energy and protein.  They also contain an intake modifier to help restrict over eating if the cattle are already in good condition and their nutritional needs are met.  If not, they can eat up to 2#/head/day.  Supplementing with grain is another option to provide extra energy and protein through bunk feeding or with a TMR.  Providing prebiotics such as yeast and Amaferm will help cattle digest more efficiently and absorb more nutrients.  Cows in good condition have fewer calving problems than thin cows. Thin cows can be too weak to deliver a calf without assistance.  Cattle on an increasing nutritional plan as they approach calving will be more likely to give birth to stronger calves, have a positive effect on fetal programing and breed back faster.

 Is coccidiosis a threat?

Of 22 herds sampled in eastern South Dakota, 92% of the calves had coccidiosis.  If you dry lot your cows and calves before turning them out on pasture in the spring, you may be faced by this challenge and not even see clinical signs.  Coccidiosis protozoa is shed by the cow.  To reduce the challenge, keep cows and lots clean.  Feeding a ration containing Rumensin will also help by reducing the shed.

Is the immune system ready?

Feed good quality feedstuffs, make sure they are getting adequate energy and protein and beware of mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins in your feed will suppress the immune response and contribute to numerous other problems.  Mycotoxins are produced by mold and sometimes we cannot see mold in our feed, especially corn silage.  If you question the quality of your feedstuffs, have them tested.

Don’t forget about the most important nutrient… WATER.  Make sure they have plenty of access to clean, fresh water.

To produce a healthy, vigorous calf, keep adequate condition on the cow by supplying her with chelated and organic minerals 6 weeks prior to calving.  In addition, boost the quality of colostrum by supplementing with Diamond V Yeast XPC. Feeding Diamond V Yeast XPC will increase the number of antibodies in the cow’s colostrum and therefore strengthen the immune response of the newborn calf.

Make sure the colostrum, antibodies and probiotics are delivered in timely matter (within the first few hours).  Always remember that sooner is better.  The wall of the gut becomes less permeable by the hour and even by the minute as the calf ages.  After 12 hours, the gut wall becomes impermeable to antibodies so to effectively transfer antibodies through the gut wall, make sure the calf gets its colostrum and supplements as soon as possible.

Is the cow’s calf up and sucking from her?  If housed in a group, make sure the calf is up and nursing its own mother and that it wasn’t another calf that has nursed the cow.  A newborn calf is born with enough fat and energy reserves for ONLY 1 day.

A lot of this may just seem like common sense, and I hope it is!  Don’t overlook the obvious or any other detail.  We are dealing with livestock ,so let’s try to be ready and prepare for the unexpected.