Top 5 Tips to Help You During Calving Season
The calving season is an important time on any farm and can last from spring to autumn. With the average pregnancy lasting 283 days, the calving process can be a stressful time for everyone involved.
Things like how the season affects feed requirements in each trimester and where expectant cattle are housed need to be considered to ensure the safe delivery and health of calves and their mothers.
Ensuring the safety of your calving cattle is essential, here is what you should look out for.
Calving Season Tips
Pay Attention to Nutritional Needs Prior to Calving
While the nutritional requirements of your pregnant cattle are now significantly higher, it’s important to remember that the needs of a lactating cow are almost more than double that of a dry cow.
Keeping an eye on your cow’s fat scores is also important. These scores are an indicator of the body fat reserves that is independent of size. When it comes to cattle management, this score is a great assessment for breeding cows as it helps highlight the body condition at critical stages of the production cycle and identifies which cows need nutritional management.
When calving, here are the target fat scores according to Meat and Livestock Australia:
- No lower than 2.5 at calving for autumn calving
- No lower than 2.5 at the start of mating for autumn calving
- No lower than 2.0 at calving for spring calving cows
If livestock falls below the target score, supplementary feeding is necessary, with a focus on protein-filled meals to accompany frosted pastures. Also, quality hay is another supplement that cattle will appreciate during the colder months when they require more energy to keep warm.
When preparing for calving season, it is essential that your farm is prepared with a safe calving paddock as well as yard facilities. Look out for areas with trees or accessible shelter belts that can provide shelter and protection as cold and wet weather can add strain on calving females.
As you prepare the yard, ensure all the equipment is working, particularly the crush.
Items you may also need include:
- Calving chains/straps
- Oesophageal feeders
- Calf feeding bottles
- Calf milk powder
Regular check-ups on heifers once labour has begun is very important. Checking on them roughly two times a day may be enough as you try to keep an eye out for any visuals of the calf.
Normally, the calf should be born two hours after the water bag or feet first emerge. It is important that the heifer should be inspected if the calf has not yet been born three hours after its first appearance. Timing is essential here; the calf must be delivered within four hours of the water bag appearing in order to maximise its chances of survival.
When to Call a Vet
You should be calling on a vet when:
- The heifer is having difficulty calving
- Birth appears to be breach
- The heifer has weakened to the point where one leg is jammed back and there is difficulty moving into a proper position.
- Two adults struggle to deliver the calf
The assistance of a veterinary professional is often required when correcting difficult calving or prescribing and administering veterinary drugs to assist with the birthing process and the survival of the heifer.
Dystocia – What is it?
Dystocia can mean a slow and difficult birth, whereby the cow struggles to birth without the aid of external assistance.
Common causes of Dystocia are:
- Malpresentation: This is when the calf is in the incorrect position to be delivered normally. This can look like a calf coming with its back legs first, instead of its front legs.
- Maternal-fetal disproportion: This is when the calf is too large to fit through the cow’s pelvis. This is most common in first-time calvers.
- Uterine inertia: This describes the uterine muscles or the cow becoming too physically weak to push the calf out.
Regardless of whether your livestock are able to calf naturally or suffer from dystocia, patience and timing are extremely important. Keep these tips in mind as you enter the most stressful and exciting season of the livestock industry.
Steel Supplies Charters helps you at every step with high-quality cattle handling equipment and supplies. Get in touch today!
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