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Calving essentials – are you ready for the season ahead?

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With February fast approaching, calving season will be starting on many Irish farms. Over the next few weeks, we will bring you a series of articles to help you through this busy time. Firstly, we will guide you through preparing your calving essentials.

Right now, preparation management is essential to ensure optimal health and welfare for animals for the remainder of the year.

There are many factors to consider over the coming weeks including calving equipment, housing facilities and farm safety.

We encourage farmers to take time to prepare in advance to make sure you are fully set up and ready for calving.

Calving equipment and essentials

Firstly, check your basic calving equipment. This includes a calving jack, a clean set of nylon ropes, a securely fitted calving gate, arm-length disposable gloves, access to warm water and lubricant.

If you use a calving camera or other technology, make sure it is in working order. For post-calving, ensure you have iodine/naval treatment (10-15ml per navel as recommended by Teagasc), feeding bottles, and thermometer.

Also, keep a calf jacket or infra-red lamp, electrolytes and two stomach tubes, one for colostrum management and the other for sick calves, ready for use.

Colostrum is essential. Calves are born without immunity as antibodies are not passed from the cow to calf throughout pregnancy.

Colostrum can help the immunity of new-borns and fight potential viruses and infections. Ideally, this is fed by the calf’s mother but where this is not possible, an emergency supply is needed.

Surplus colostrum from older cows/high-yielding cows could be stored and used in emergency situations. Otherwise, farmers will need to purchase a colostrum substitute.

Calf tags and restrictions 

Ensure calf tags are ordered and available to hand. For marking cows, have a supply of leg bands, tape, or spray paint.

When it comes to cow health, it would be beneficial to have a stock of mastitis tubes and calcium and magnesium for milk fever or grass tetany.

Keeping on top of calf registration and paperwork during the busy season with the aid of technology.

Farming app, Herdwatch, allows you to register calves on the spot, saving you time and hassle during the registration process. Organisation can help keep farmers on track and allow more time to do essential farm tasks.

Assess your labour needs and have help lined up if needed. Contact FRS to talk through your potential needs today.

Housing facilities

At this stage, all calving and calf rearing housing facilities should be cleared out, cleaned and disinfected. This is essential to stop any infection spreading from the previous year.

You will need a calving pen (minimum 16.8m2) with good lighting.

An area for sick calves is also recommended. This should be away from the rest of the calves to help stop the spread of infection.

Also, take this opportunity to ensure that all animals will have access to clean water, clean and repair any troughs. Other items like buckets, feeders etc. should be cleaned and kept in a safe place, ready for use.

Farm safety

Calved cows can become aggressive in protecting their young. Remain vigilant at all times and make sure others living or working on the farm are aware of the dangers.

Organisation can help prevent accidents, ensure cows can be safely secured for handling and watch for signs of danger. Always create a barrier between you and the animal and have a clear exit route at all times.

Lastly, farmers also need to look after themselves. Get as much rest as possible in advance of the busy period and if you feel that the workload will be too much, ask for help.

Help

If you require help this spring, contact your local FRS office in plenty of time. FRS have a range of skilled operators available. Contact your local office or visit FRS website for more information.

For more information about how Herdwatch can help you eliminate farm paperwork and make better decisions.

FRS is currently running a recruitment drive with available positions posted daily and can apply for jobs online.

Further reading: 

Make straw go further this calving season – find some farming top tips.

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