NDSU Extension - Morton County


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February 22, 2021 Calving Season

Renae Gress, Extension Agent/Agriculture & Natural Resources


Dates to Remember

Feb 23 & 24: Farming and Ranching for the Bottom Line Conference, Virtual

Feb 25: Preparing Your Ranch for Drought, Webinar, Virtual

Feb 27: Morton County Crop Improvement Meeting, Mandan

March 1: Setting Goals Webinar, Virtual

March 2: Morton County 4-H Council Meeting, Morton County Courthouse

March 2-May 18: CRAFT Helping Family Members or Friends with Substance Use Disorder, Zoom

March 3: Private General & Fumigation Training, Mandan

March 3: Farm Bill Workshop, Mandan

March 4: Preparing Your Ranch for Drought, Webinar, Virtual

Calving Season

Now is the time of year when many producers are either calving or preparing for the upcoming calving season. Planning and preparing for the calving season can help not only minimize calf losses but also improve calves’ performance. As producers prepare for calving, it is important to keep in mind cattle nutrition, calving facilities, and calf housing and management.

The third trimester has a large impact on the cows as they approach their due date. Most cows handle pregnancy well with access to the proper feed, good water and a reasonable space with wind protection.  Reducing nutrient intake prior to calving will not reduce calf birth weight and subsequently reduce the incidence of dystocia or calving difficulty. Low planes of nutrition have been shown to have no effect or only slightly decrease birth weight. Conversely, calving difficulty typically increases with reduced nutrient intake because the cow tends to be weaker. In addition, this practice results in weak calves that are less active immediately after birth.

Preparation of the calving facilities is another key issue for successful calving. If cows are calving outdoors, it is important that there are some areas that are protected from the wind. In extreme weather conditions like we experienced last week, producers also need to worry about frostbite in newborn calves. Producers who calve in the barn or uncovered pens must inspect and repair gates, pens, water supply, feeders, and alleys. Barn or pen calving demands a substantial amount of straw for bedding. Usually 5 to 7 pounds per cow per day of straw is recommended. Continuously adding bedding is important to keep the calves clean and dry.

Although, calving indoors can alleviate the effects of hypothermia, it also has risk factors. “When calving indoors, and with a number of animals producing heat and humidity, the temperature changes can produce poor air quality, leading to efficient transmission of potential pathogens and increasing the risk of neonatal calf diarrhea or pneumonia,” says NDSU Extension veterinarian Gerald Stokka.

Producers also should have an adequate stock of calving supplies, including plastic sleeves, lube, chains or straps, calf-feeding bottles, halters and ropes. For those who have a calf puller it is important to make sure it is clean and working properly.

Another pre-calving consideration is to pay attention to calf housing and management. The second most relevant cause of calf death is calf scours. Scours prevention focuses on two key areas: the health of the calf and cleanliness of the environment. Optimal calf health is achieved through proper care of the cow prior to calving and ensuring calves have adequate colostrum intake at birth. Because scours prevention is related to cleanliness, producers could consider approaches to ensure that the calving area is clean.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Renae at 667-3340.

Sources: NDSU Agriculture Communications & Preparing for a Successful Calving Season Publication

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