Prepare for the calving season

Cattle Handling during Calving

Calving season can be stressful and strenuous for anyone – no matter how seasoned the farmer. There is a multitude of concerns that farmers need to keep an eye out for: adequate nutrition, calving difficulties and disease prevention.

While it might seem like a mammoth task to remain on top of it all, with good organisation, management techniques and optimal cattle handling equipment – your calving season will yield better weaning rates, better calf health and consequentially, higher returns.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re giving your cattle the best chance at a safe and happy calving.

Ensure frequent access to cattle during calving

The birthing process is finicky and can become dangerous for the calf and its mother if left unsupervised, therefore, it is imperative to supervise heifers vigilantly. A calving pen that includes a headgate and/or any restraint for the animal is key to ensuring safe and thorough inspection. Knowing the stages of labour will be useful as it could be used for reference if you are unsure whether your cattle is diverting from the regular labour cycle and may need some medical interference. There are calving ropes, chains, jacks and pulleys designed to mediate calving complications. Typically, if the calf is heavy at birth, there are high chances of incidences of difficulty. An informative article which outlines normal and not normal stages of heifer labour can be read here. Ensuring your cattle-yard allows for ease of access is critical to providing adequate calf care.

Prioritise nutrition

According to CSIRO, it is recommended that calves should consume at least 1 litre of colostrum within the first 3-6 hours of its life. Since calves have no built immunity at birth, they receive passive immunity through colostrum which is the first milk produced by the cow after birth. To ensure a cow can produce an adequate amount of milk for its calf, it is important to feed them well, after calving.  Sometimes, unfortunately, the heifer rejects its calf leaving the responsibility on you to ensure its calf has access to colostrum, there is powdered colostrum is an option if this becomes the case. It is also important to provide good quality pasture for the calves to graze on, some farmers maintain better quality paddock for their calves to exclusively graze on.

Optimise biosecurity

Disease prevention is important from birth in ensuring the raising of high-quality beef cattle. Keeping the birthing area sanitary with minimal bacteria and health threats will ensure the reduction in risks of infection. Providing clean straw for the calves’ bedding will prevent their udders from becoming infected as the straw keeps them clean and dry. Outbreaks of disease are also going to be less common if cattle are spread out, this can be achieved through greater paddock area and less confinement. Ensuring permanent structures and shelters are commonly cleaned and well-bedded is imperative to prevent the breeding of disease-causing bacteria. It should also be noted that cows that give birth in Autumn are particularly susceptible to severe worm infestations since during labour and the stress can cause a release of “inhibited” worm larvae from the walls of their gut. If this occurs, a drench should be applied/ingested. It is also good routine to isolate sick calves in a designated sick pen to prevent the infection of the other calves as soon as possible.

Safe and high-quality cattle handling equipment and infrastructure

Before the start of the calving season, it is advised that you do a thorough check of all the chutes, pens, and stalls. This is to ensure that they are all operating safely and are clean in preparation for labour.

Steel structures that adhere to all occupational health and safety requirements aren’t just important during calving season but also to the general health and wellbeing of your cattle.

Obtaining safe and high-quality steel infrastructure will improve your operational efficiency and safety. Steel Supplies Charters Towers offer “Calf Race” and “Calf Super Safe ‘T’ Force” to improve efficiency and safety of calves when moving into your race or loading facility and to prevent turning, jumping, and rearing.

Your next steps

Calving season is demanding and intricate for a reason – the most crucial day of a calf’s life is their first. With adequate care and proper assistance, these calves have every chance to grow into very healthy and strong cows. Do not hesitate to reach out to us at Steel Supplies Charters Towers for advice on your steel needs from our team of experts.

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