Providing sound management during the calving season can mean more live calves and more profit. Some reminders on specific things a producer can do to limit calf loss include:
Separate first-calf heifers from mature cows. Calving difficulty can run as high as 30 to 40 percent for 2-year-old heifers compared to just three percent for mature cows. Place them in a small, accessible pasture near a corral where assistance can be given if needed.
Provide a clean area for calving. The calving area should be a well-sodded pasture or clean, dry maternity pen, not a wet, muddy lot. It should also be large enough for adequate exercise and offer protection from prevailing winds.
Be familiar with the signs of calving. Within a few hours of calving, cows generally become nervous and uneasy. As contractions increase, a cow will likely wander away from the rest of the herd.
Check cows frequently. Observing cows three or four times a day and provide assistance when necessary. However, cows should be disturbed as little as possible during labor.
Know when a cow needs assistance. Help is justified when two or three hours have passed without progress or if delivery has not occurred within 90 minutes after the water sac appears. In a normal delivery, the calf’s front legs and head will appear first.
After the calf is born, make sure the calf is breathing normally after it is delivered and that it consumes colostrum. Ideally, a calf should consume its first milk within 15 to 30 minutes after birth.
About 10 to 14 days after calving, the cow should be getting about 16 pounds of total digestible nutrients per day through feed supplement or good quality hay. The extra energy will help the cow produce enough milk for her calf and allow her to rebreed on schedule.