Calving season is always a stressful time of the year on any farm. Hopefully, you have all of this list to hand before you begin calving and if not, maybe a reminder wouldn’t hurt. It goes without saying the top of your list should be your Moocall calving sensor, to keep you connected to your animals and make sure you are aware of your calving events.
- Calving Jack/Puller
One of the best investments on any farm is a well-kept calving jack, while they can vary in price from ~€130-€400+ depending on the sizes and model of the ratchet, it will always be money well spent when it is needed. Likewise, the time you put into maintaining the calving jack will be well worth it if you need to employ it in a calving. For most people it will be 9+ months since you’ve last had any use for the jack, so clean off any build up and replace any corroding parts, a bit of lubricant on the ratchet and hinges wouldn’t hurt. Ideally, you’d repeat this at the end of calving as well when you are putting it away. New ropes are a good idea as they can be a source of infection or as many farmers choose; chains which are easier to disinfect between calvings
Some farmers may resort to washing up liquid instead of a lubricant during a calving, however, these can cause inflammation in the birth canal when used in the short term this impedes to movement of the calf and can affect cow fertility later on. Properly formulated veterinary lubricants will stay around longer, are less likely to dry out during the calving and are kinder to the animal - invest in proper lubrication.
- Full length gloves
There are a lot of situations when calving where you just need to get your hands dirty to find out more or to intervene. Given the locations and type of fluids involved there is a significant risk of infection from either farmer to cow or cow to farmer. A box of disposable vet gloves is very cheap ~€10 for a box of 100 and is a small price for protection as most diseases are much easier to catch through fluid contact with the skin.
As a follow on from above, a good disinfection routine for your calving pens and equipment will make a significant difference to the long term health of your cow/calf. Given that there will be plenty of bodily fluids involved, it is good practice to disinfect any tools used in the calving and the calving pen, in reality you may be too busy to manage this, but the more the better when it comes to hygiene.
- Hot water
All you need is a kettle somewhere close to the calving pen, something small many people would forget, but having easy access to boiling water is useful: for sterilising tools, defrosting colostrum or warm handwashing and cleaning ropes/chains used in the calving.
- Navel Treatment
One of the biggest vulnerabilities in the new-born calf is the exposed navel. As soon as possible the navel should be dipped/sprayed with a treatment solution, generally a tincture of Iodine >7% will suffice to disinfect and speed the drying out process as the Iodine will remove moisture as it sublimes.
- Calcium supplement
This could be considered a must for dairy farmers, as milkers are more prone to suffering from calcium deficit than beef breeds tend to be. However, a beef cow that is in poor body condition or has not been eating well in the lead up to calving can have issues with low calcium. If it’s a case that they stop contracting, consult your vet as to calcium deficit being the issues and if intravenous calcium/magnesium is necessary.
- Multivitamins/pre-calving lick
It is not a big investment to have a multivitamin injection or tablets around to give your newborn calf a little boost early in their life. A more expensive but more beneficial option is to supply pre-calving licks to your late gestation cows. This has the added benefit to the calf and prevents deficiencies causing problems during the calving event like calcium deficiency and selenium to give the calf a boost in their first days. While licks may seem expensive, it can save a much bigger vet bill down the line and save on hardship for the farmer.
The single biggest boost a calf can get in early life is plenty of good quality colostrum in the first 6 hours of life. With the nature of calving it will not always be possible to milk the cow or to get the calf to suck enough colostrum and that is where it is useful to have another form of colostrum to hand. Fresh is always best, but frozen colostrum from your own herd is just as good if you have a good milker it would be worth keeping some extra colostrum frozen just in case. A tip from my own experience is to use ziploc bags as they seal, give plenty of surface area to heat the colostrum and are handy to pour out into a bottle/stomach pump.
- Calf care tools
There a few little things to help you deal with the calf just after calving; a bottle and teat to get them suckling, a stomach pump/bag if they are too weak to suck on their own, an aspirator we discussed in a prior blog post about calf care to help them breathe and whatever your electrolyte choice is to rehydrate scouring calves.
If you have all of the above ready to go for your calving season, you should be covered for the most common issues arising around calving and as a parting tip; have your vet on speed dial as you never know what can arise and if in doubt calling a vet can save damage to yourself or your animals.
If you have any questions on this topic, additional tips you would like to share, or suggestions for what you’d like to see discussed in future leave a comment below.
All the best,