What is in this article?:
- Heat Stress Can Cause Premature Calving; Watch Fall-Calving Herds Closely
- Management attention is critical
Cows in the seventh or eighth month of their pregnancy already face stress carrying the calf; when temperatures hit over 100F degrees that adds stress.
With a heat wave and severe drought, fall-calving season might become as labor intensive as winter calving, say University of Missouri Extension specialists.
Management attention is critical
Fall calves that become summer calves may need as much management attention as winter calves.
Sexten, the beef nutritionist, had earlier pointed out that cows approaching calving dates should be on a rising plain of nutrition.
On drought-dried pastures, cows may not get enough energy in their diet to produce milk at calving. On the cow herd at the MU Beef Farm, Columbia, he started supplemental feeding a pound of distillers by-product grains to add protein and energy to the pasture ration.
The cow's rumen needs protein to keep microbes working, digesting fiber.
Extra attention must be given to assure plenty of clean water for the mama cows. Shade helps also.
Sexten was not ready to call it a "weak-calf syndrome." But, emphasized that early attention saves calves. Intervention can save weak calves whatever the season.
Rob Kallenbach, MU forage specialist, hasn't seen problems with early calving in northern Missouri.
However, he said two cows did have premature births last August at the MU Southwest Research Center, Mount Vernon, Mo. "We had a couple of calves that weren't much bigger than cats. They could not reach the cow's udders."
Both lived, but became bottle calves. They had to be given away to get needed care.
"When cows are bred to calving-ease bulls, we always recommend starting to watch cows before their due date," Patterson says. "The calves usually come early."
Sexten recommends delaying breeding fall-calving herds until December 1. "Many people have backed up to breeding at Thanksgiving," he says. "Calving earlier is riskier."