BEEF Editors' Blog

6 Resources To Help You Succeed This Calving Season

As many of us head into calving season, there is no better time than now to get prepared. Long hours get the best of all of us, and reviewing the basics of how to treat a prolapse or how to properly use your calf puller are best done before a problem occurs.

Earlier this month, my husband and I began a new (and much anticipated!) chapter in our life when we moved out to his family farm to start creating a home in the original farmhouse. We previously lived in a townhome for the past two years and often commuted daily to the family farm to work cattle or help with fieldwork. I know townhome living works for a lot of America, but as two farm kids, we're feeling awfully blessed to finally have the cows right across the road and more than one lonely pot of flowers to tend to.

Since I probably will be talking about the daily ups and downs that come with rural living on here every now and again, let me take a few seconds to give some background on myself. If you''ve read my bio or chatted with me before, you probably know I grew up around cattle, but very much in a hobby-farm sense. My family's cowherd consists of old show heifers and I grew up showing steers and putting cattle in the cooler during the summer. My husband's family farms corn and soybeans in southern Minnesota, and they have a small purebred Angus cowherd and sell show and seedstock cattle.

 

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It is rather convenient timing that our move to the farm butted up with the start of calving season. Our first cow is due later this week and has a sexed embryo in her from our best donor cow, so as you can imagine, she is being carefully watched. She's an older recip cow, so best-case scenario is that she will pop a calf out without as much as a blink of an eye, but we never want to take chances. I know that many of your operations are much bigger in size and scope, but regardless if you're a commercial operation calving out 500+ or have a part-time operation with 15 cows, I think we all can agree that calving season is bound to bring its fair share of challenges.

As many of us head into calving season, there is no better time than now to get prepared. Besides having your calving supplies clean and easy to access, you might also want to take a few minutes to go over some frequent issues that arise during calving. Long hours get the best of all of us, and reviewing the basics of how to treat a prolapse or how to properly use your calf jack are best done before the problem happens. Here are six great resources that would be helpful to review before you're nodding off into your morning coffee after a week of late nights in the barn:

  1. Calving Checklist: Everything You Need To Know & Have Before 2014 Calving
    If you only have time to read one of the six articles on this list, I suggest you read this one. We highlight all the supplies you need to have handy, what you should buy new for this year and share some basic tips from some of our favorite veterinarians. Read over the checklist here.
     
  2. How To Know When To Intervene When Calving First-Calf Heifers
    It's one of the toughest decisions for many of us to make during calving season, but understanding when to grab the calving chains can often be the difference between a healthy calf and a dead one. Buddy Faries, Jr., veterinarian with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, explains what to look for and when to step in when calving first-calf heifers. Watch the video on calving first-calf heifers.
     
  3. Increase The Number Of Daylight Calves By Altering Feeding
    Speaking of night checks, Mark Keaton, staff chair for Baxter County at University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, reviews university research that supports feeding cows later in the day to increase the number of calves born during the day. Read more about the day-calving concept.
     
  4. How To Use A Calf Puller
    This is one of our most-read stories on BEEFmagazine.com and rightly so. Depending on your situation and cowherd size, most of us go close to nine months between calving seasons. Assuming that you don't use a calf jack all that often to begin with, it's easy to get rusty on using it. This helpful how-to article from beef veterinarians will help make your tough situation seem a little more manageable. Read how to use a calf puller here.
     
  5. Calving 101: Oklahoma State University Reviews The Basics
    Your local Extension agent probably has a similar resource manual to share, but this handy 16-page calving management document put together by Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Glenn Selk and Dave Sparks deserves at least a quick look before you get into the heat of calving. It was put together in 2008, but the basics of calving haven't changed much over the years. Read the OSU calving time management PDF here.
     
  6. Colostrum Basics: How To Manage & Feed Colostrum
    BEEF "Vet's Opinion" columnist Dave Sjeklocha stresses the importance of colostrum within the first six hours here and this article reviews how to manage colostrum for maximum benefit.

By the way, if you are online on Twitter or Facebook, make sure to use the #calfwatch14 hashtag. It's been catching on the past few years and it's a fun way to follow along with the trials and successes that come with the territory. Plus, it's an easy way to really show consumers about the long hours and hard work that goes into ranching. And you'll get extra points if you share a 2:00 am #felfie (farmer selfie!) with a newborn calf!

So share with us -- when do you start calving? Any good resources you review each year before the heat of calving begins? How many head will you calve out this year? We would love to see your pictures as well! Email them to jamie.purfeerst@penton.com or post them on our Facebook page!

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

W.E. (not verified)
on Jan 23, 2014

Jamie, at calving time, let Mother Nature be your boss, your best friend and your advisor. We cull any female that causes trouble at calving, and avoid using that cow's progeny for anything except beef. LIkewise, any cow with a sign of prolapse goes on the beef list. These things are heritable! Eliminating them from the gene pool is the best solution. We calve between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, which works very well here in the upper south and requires much less human interference. The fall calving season starts September 1, a great month to calve out heifers for the first time. During gestation in cold weather, energy is driven to the cow's core, making her unborn calf bigger--and sometimes lazier. Spring calves here weigh five to twenty pounds more than early fall calves. Calves come much easier in September after hot summer weather has held down birth weight, yet calves still have time to learn to graze before the dead of winter. We ask our cows to survive and thrive on available forage with enough hay to get them through bad weather, and they do. They need no grain, no lick tanks or tubs. Select what works best in your environment, and their progeny will work for you, not you for them.

peter masilo (not verified)
on Feb 4, 2014

this is imformative and a a growing small farmer I 'm now informed.

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