Calving Tips From VCE

Farmers know calving is a busy and critical time of the year. Spring calving can potentially be even more stressful depending on the weather. Extremely cold, wet, snowy or icy conditions can take a serious toll on the health of calves. The potential of a calf crop depends on getting as many of these calves as possible up and on all fours and nursing.  Research data and conventional wisdom both agree that the largest percentage losses in the calf crop from birth to weaning occur at or within 11 days of calving.  The largest percentage of remaining mortality occur within 40 days of birth, making the calving season of paramount performance for producer income.

Naturally, the fewer cows, heifers and calves farmers have to assist, the better. Yet it still would be unrealistic to expect our entire herd to calve on their own. John Benner of Virginia Cooperative Extension offers a few tips and reminders for setting up a successful calving season:

  1. Have a bad weather plan. Is it possible to bring at least a few cows into a barn if a storm hits during the peak of the calving season? If not, you will likely need to roll out extra hay or straw for several days to provide dry bedding.  Are your 4-wheel drive tractors and trucks prepared for such a need?  Is there a better pasture that may be easier to observe or has fewer sanitary challenges to calve in?  How will you deal with a frozen waterer?

Have adequate supplies on hand.  Calving season is high on supply needs.  Obstetrics, tags, syringes, needles, elastrator rings, iodine solution, vaccines, vitamin E and selenium to name a few.  In an ideal world, having enough of everything to last the whole calving season before it starts is preferred.  Speaking from experience, it is the first calf and the last calf of the season in which we find ourselves out of something needed for calf processing.

  1. Colostrum and milk replacer. Of all the things you need to have on hand, colostrum is probably the most important.  Colostrum from a calf’s mother is best, but colostrum replacer should be on hand and used if necessary.  Check with your herd veterinarian to explore different scenarios that replacement colostrum may be a benefit, in addition to those in which it is a necessity.

Virginia Cooperative Extension will host an educational meeting on calving  Monday, January 29th starting at 4:30 – 5:30 pm at the Highland Modular Conference Room  adjacent to the Extension Office in Monterey. These topics and more that are critical for preparing for the calving season will be addressed.  To register please call the Highland County Extension office at 540-468-2225 by the morning of the 29th.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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