Preparing for spring calving
With calving season just around the corner, it’s time for farmers to prepare and refresh their kits and knowledge. The questions are, what do you need to know and have ready when calving begins?

 
Be sure to check all facilities and equipment that will be used during calving. Calving stalls should be clean and dry. Bedding should be changed after every calving to prevent the spread of diseases. A warmer environment should also be prepared just in case you have chilled calves.

 Managers should have a calving kit ready to assist with the birthing procedure. The calving kit is effective for making sure you are prepared, without the stress of looking for all of your tools. Calving kits should include items such as calf pullers (chains and handles), disinfectant to sanitize, gloves, lubrication, paper towels, frozen colostrum, electrolytes, and iodine for the calf's navel. Also, it is good to have phone numbers of people to call in case you need help pulling larger calves. Other items that might be helpful would be an oral calf feeder, calf feeder bottle, selenium and vitamin A and D injections, dehorning paste, castration tools, and an ear tagging kit. Calving kit tools can be placed in a bucket or some producers put their equipment in a backpack so they are able to arrive at the birthing scene faster.

 Be prepared to check your herd frequently and keep a close watch on first time calving heifers. Pregnant heifers should be moved to a calving area two weeks before their due date to keep a closer eye on them. This is also a good time to analyze the cow's body condition to determine if they are in good form. Body condition scores should not fall below a 5 to ensure adequate nutrients for the calf. A body condition score of a 5 will also make certain that the cow will rebreed early. If cows have scores of 4 or less, feed the best hay available. You may need to supplement your hay to give your cows enough energy.

 Once cows have calved, make sure calves receive colostrum and their navel dipped in 7 percent iodine within the first two hours of birth. Ear tagging and tattooing should be completed early to identify calves easily. After two to three days, Cow-calf pairs should be moved out to pasture. Calves will stay clean, dry, and much healthier outside. Be sure to watch calves for scours and other health issues.

 Cows have a higher demand for nutrients when they start lactating so make sure cows are consuming the nutrients that they need. Start by testing your forage to see if they need any supplementation. If hay is lacking in energy and/or protein, then corn and/or a protein byproduct can help meet cows' needs. Supplemented corn does not need to be processed, because cows adequately digest whole kernel corn.

 Check cow body condition score (BCS). Cows should be a 5 BCS, while heifers should be a 6 BCS. If cows or heifers are below that BCS, consider supplementing energy and/or protein to provide the herd with needed nutrients. Over conditioned cows will result in lowered fertility.

 Check vitamin and mineral supplementation strategies. Do your cows have access to vitamins and minerals? If nutrient supplementation already occurs, consider adding a vitamin and mineral pack to what is supplemented. When cows transition into lactation, they transition into their highest nutrient demanding phase. As producers, we want to make sure we provide those nutrients to our herd. For some, a few pounds per head of an energy, protein, vitamin, and mineral supplement is all that is needed until the pastures become lush. In early spring, do not forget to ensure cows have a source of magnesium to help prevent magnesium deficiencies or grass tetany.

 Nutrition is important for embryo development. Live animal physiology has been linked to proper fetal development. This concept is called fetal programming. Weaning more pounds and developing more productive heifers starts with providing the nutrients required to grow and develop a fetus. Poor or inadequate nutrition can easily hold back a beef operation from being profitable. Also, be aware that 75% of growth occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy. Trying to regain all lost cow weight in late pregnancy can lead to larger than normal calves and potentially calving issues. Ideally, cattle will be supplemented as needed throughout pregnancy and lactation.

 March is also a time to prepare your pasture. Fertilizer planning should be completed during this time of the year. Soil testing is important to determine the correct amount of fertilizer needed for each permanent pasture. Depending on the weather, seeding of pastures can begin during late March to early April.


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