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Preparing for Spring Calving

A calf in the springBenjamin Franklin said, "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail." When it comes to calving the time to prepare isn't when the first cow starts calving, but rather weeks or months before the first calf is born. The more preparation put in prior to calving, the easier your calving season should be. Now is the time to make sure your spring calving herd is in good body condition, you have the right equipment on hand, and calving areas are prepared.

Importance of Body Condition

The ideal body condition score (BCS) for a spring calving brood cow is 5 (on a 10 point scale). "A BCS of 5 allows the cow to deliver the nutrition needed by the fetus to develop without "robbing" the cow herself of key nutrients," explains Mike Peacock, Southern States Livestock Feed Sales Manager.

"As a result, calves are born with more strength, including brown fat to sustain body heat, and stronger lifetime immune systems, including the ability to fight off causes of early calf mortality," adds Peacock.
Cows in higher body condition typically have more immunoglobulins in their colostrum then thinner cows, which gives the calves a greater level of disease protection.

If you have a cow with a BCS less than 5 it's not too late to improve her score. As the cows are in their last trimester of pregnancy, it's even more important to offer them high quality feeds at this point. If they have a score lower than 5, consider increasing their daily feed intake in addition to offering them a higher quality feed.

The time to try to improve your brood cow's BCS is prior to calving. Once she calves, it will be difficult to improve her score as nutrient needs during lactation are very high. Remember a good BCS not only makes calving easier, but it also helps your cow return to estrus sooner and breed back within an acceptable time period of less than 90 days post-calving.

Brood Cow Preparation

Of course the best way to prepare your brood cow for the upcoming calving season is through a comprehensive nutrition plan.; Organic trace minerals are an important component to any feed program.

Peacock comments, "They are the key components to aid digestion of coarse forages, the building blocks required for immunity, production of milk and required for ovulation, resulting in breed back."

Vaccinations are another critical aspect of any breeding operation. The goal of your vaccination program should be to utilize the cow's immune system, via colostrum, to protect the calf. As the calf is born without antibodies to protect against infections, colostrum is the source of antibodies for the calf. Consult with your vet and follow label recommendations to ensure your cows are on an appropriate vaccination schedule.

Farm Preparation

Now is the time to do a pre-calving walk-through of your pens, chutes and calving stalls if you use them. All equipment and calving areas should be clean and ready to use. It's always better to prepare these items in the light of day rather than scrambling to make them right at night when the first calf in on its way out.

Every cattle farmer needs the following supplies on hand during calving season: disposable obstetrical sleeves, obstetrical chains and handles, mechanical calf pullers, injectable antibiotics, lubricant, and disinfectant (Novalsan® or Betadine®). Other helpful items to have around are flashlights, old towels and even a bucket of non detergent soap and warm water. If possible, make up a portable kit so you can quickly move your supplies to wherever your cow is calving.

Preparation is Key!

Spending a little time preparing for calving now can pay dividends later. By ensuring your brood cows are at the appropriate BCS and have been vaccinated will help reduce calf mortality, calving difficulties and outbreak of diseases in calves. Have questions about preparing your brood cows or need new equipment for the upcoming season? Visit your local Southern States for answers to your questions and to check out our equipment supply.

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