Cold-Weather Calving Tips
What tactics — and tricks of the trade — make calving season run more smoothly and get calves off to a healthy start? You likely have some tried-and-true management practices of your own, but here, two Angus breeders share a few of theirs.
- 1. Monitor body condition. Mark Harms emphasizes the importance of monitoring body condition of females prior to calving — not only for adequate colostrum production, but also for future breed-back. Harms says, "Body condition scores of 5½ or better at calving will pay dividends with regard to these two critical factors." Mark and his wife, Kim, operate Harms Plainview Ranch near Lincolnville, Kan. Their operation includes registered Angus, Red Angus and Charolais cows, with about 500 cows calving in September and October and 100 calving in February and March.
- 2. Provide shelter. Bedding is essential during inclement weather, says Harms. "Breaking the barrier between frozen ground and the body of a wet newborn calf could very well make the difference in survival."
- 3. Give the cow a little incentive. Midland, S.D., rancher T.J. Gabriel is no stranger to calving in the cold. Gabriel, who operates Deep Creek Angus Ranch with his wife, Jeanine, and their young family will calve 130 registered Angus cows this winter, 30 of which are first-calf heifers that will begin calving Jan. 1. The cows will start to calve by Feb. 1.
Says Gabriel, "Since we calve in cold weather, the faster that calf gets up the better." So he sprinkles a little O-NO-MORE™ powder on each calf when it's born. The specially formulated product helps ensure that cows claim their calf. "It helps make the cows a little more aggressive when licking calves off and getting calves up to nurse," he explains.
- 4. Keep calves healthy. To help boost calves' immune system, Gabriel also gives every calf born a Vitamin B Complex shot to get their growth off to a good start. He dips iodine on every navel to minimize infections, as well.
- 5. Keep pens clean. Sanitary calving areas are also important for getting newborn calves off to a healthy start. Gabriel puts lime down in the pens in his calving barn each time he cleans them. He also keeps barn stalls and calving pens freshly bedded.
- 6. Use nylon straps. In the event he has to pull a calf, Gabriel prefers nylon straps over calf chains. "Chains can injure calves' legs; straps are a lot more calf-friendly," he says.