This is the time of year many area farmers are calving. Usually this time of year is not as cold as it has been this year. The weather definitely presents difficulties we don’t have when we calve in later spring and fall.
We can learn a lot from the farmers in the north. Having an indoor facility to provide shelter is a great benefit, but just having a shelter is not enough. Often these facilities become infected with bacteria that can be harmful to the young calf. Sometimes these areas will have E. coli and Salmonella as resident bacteria present, which may be more harmful than the weather. Cleaning and disinfecting calving areas is a must. Some people like to use straw as bedding, however it is best to remove straw between calvings and apply lime to the floor before rebedding the area.
Calves born this time of year often need assistance in getting their colostrum. Their immune systems need all the help they can get. Remember new born calves usually have very minimal body fat. They need all the help they can get especially with temperatures as cold as we have had. Frostbite and frozen tissue affects animals just like it affects people. I recommend, if at all possible, being present at the birth of calves in this weather. Drying calves is necessary to prevent freezing of extremities, especially the ears.
Remember if you decide to calve this time of year, the more the immune system of the cow is stimulated the better the colostrum will be for the offspring. If the cow doesn’t have colostrum, I like to use frozen colostrum from that farm. My last choice is to use packaged colostrum, however it is better than nothing.
Even the best-prepared person will still have issues. Having a birthing kit ready is definitely an asset. Ask your veterinarian to aid you in putting a kit together. Most of all remember, calves need help getting a good start to be of benefit to your operation.