Calving, at the best of times, can be very challenging and labour intensive but autumn and winter calving comes with its own set of unique challenges. Cold and wet weather, fewer hours of daylight and higher birth weights are a few that spring to mind. Why would anyone choose to calve at this time of year, you might ask. Well, calving in spring compared to autumn reduces calf live weight at 9 – 10 months of age. This is due to the spring-born calf spending its first few formative months on dry summer pasture, while the autumn-born calf is grazing on plentiful spring pasture. In order to achieve this, it is important to deliver your calves safely and look after them carefully. Here are some of the things that are especially important to look out for while calving in winter.
Account For Cold Weather
Calves are born wet and because of this they are more susceptible to chills if the weather is cold, frosty or snowing. If a calf enters the world in this kind of weather, it needs to be dried off and not left to ‘air dry’. This is crucial because if the calf is cold it will have to use its own energy supply to warm itself up and in doing so will hinder its chances of survival. Think about it, the calf has just come from the environment of their mother’s womb which is 100-102 degrees. To be pulled from this cozy womb into temperatures as much as 100 degrees colder is a major shock. Extreme cold can overwhelm the ability to create enough internal heat and hypothermia can occur. Calves suffering from hypothermia are more susceptible to naval infections, pneumonia and scours. Providing the calves with wind breaks, shelter and bedding is a great way to keep them warm and dry.
Feed, feed, feed
The sooner that winter calves are standing ans suckling, the better. They should eat four quarts of colostrum as soon as possible after birth to take in passive immunity and nutrients. The fluid helps increase blood volume which improves circulation for warmth, this is crucial to calves in the cold weather. Furthermore, colostrum provides the calf with an important source of energy that helps regulate its body temperature. It is also important to provide additional protein and energy to cows during their final trimester of pregnancy and the beginning of lactation.
Remove snow from areas where cattle congregate to avoid any future mud problems. To encourage cattle to lie down, spread beddings in the areas where snow has been scraped away.
It is best not to tag calves soon after birth in the winter as it may hinder blood flow to the ear and make it more likely to freeze when temperatures are below zero.
Midway through the calving season, move cows that have not calved to a new, clean environment to reduce the transfer of disease to newborn calves.
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