Out The Gap – Issue 1

Preparing for Calving

Mean calving date and 6 week calving rate are the key drivers of profitability on Irish dairy farms.  This has put much pressure on farmers during the calving season. Preparing man and beast for this busy period is the key to success. Breeding 2023 starts once the cow calves.

Preparation before calving can help to reduce stress during this period. Some useful tips include:

  • Use scanning dates to group cows accordingly
  • Identity any cows carrying twins
  • Ensure a BCS of 3 – 3.25 at the point of calving. Restrict late calvers to minimise over-conditioning. Fit not fat for cows
  • Feeding cows at night reduces night calvings
  • BCS has an influence on colostrum quality and quantity
  • Test colostrum using Brix refractometer
  • Ensure cows are neither over fat nor suffering sub nutrition.  When intakes are lacking in energy, protein, minerals or vitamins, complication of the cows will result.  These could include milk fever, phosphorous deficiency and poor quality and/ or quantity of colostrum in the cow. And then impacts the upcoming breeding season
  • Ensure that you are feeding a recommended pre-calving mineral high in Mg, P, Se, and I for at least six weeks pre calving.  This will ensure that the cow will calve easier and have a vigorous calf
  • Ensure that all your cows vaccinations are up to date and given within the correct time period so that adequate antibodies are in the colostrum calving out the gap
  • Rota-Corona vaccination to all cows is a game changer to prevent illness in calves
  • Control liver fluke in cows where necessary
  • Clip tails before calving
  • Check calving sheds and equipment are working including calving cameras, calving jack, calving pens are ready and gates are working
  • Lime and disinfect calving pens and ensure that they are well bedded with clean, dry straw
  • Clean and disinfect pens between each use
  • Water – cows can lose a lot of fluid during labour, drinking up to 60 litres of fresh water in a 24 hour period.  If there are no drinking troughs in the calving pens, cows will need access to water
  • Write a shopping list and get all your supplies well in advance – gloves, spare calving ropes, stomach tube, Milton, lubricant, iodine, thermometer
  • Have fresh or frozen colostrum on farm.  If you are defrosting colostrum, use warm water less than 50 degrees Celsius to thaw slowly as faster thawing at a higher temperature has been shown to destroy the antibodies contained in the colostrum
  • 3-2-1 Colostrum. 3 Litres, 2 hours, 1st.  Be sure to feed enough colostrum to calves, at least three litres in the first two hours of birth. Research show that approximately 85% of calves dying from infectious disease have received inadequate passive transfer of colostrum. The calf’s ability for absorption of immunoglobulin across the intestine decreases rapidly 6-12 months after birth.  Therefore it is critical that the calf receive colostrum during this time
  • Schedule time off – Look after your physical and mental health, ensure time away from the farm

Preparation is key and above is a few key points to help the process run as smooth as possible. Lastly, don’t forget Farm Safety, it’s important to remain vigilant when in the presence of calved cows as they may become anxious and even aggressive in protecting their young after calving.

Happy calving!