Prepare well in advance of the main spring-calving period, writes CAFRE’s Nigel Gould.
Assess facilities and calving supplies to allow enough time to replenish stocks and make any adjustments. Important items include calving aids/ropes, iodine solution for navels, arm length gloves, calving lubricant, disinfectant, artificial/frozen colostrum, stomach tubes and/or feeding bottles.
A general rule is to allow one calving pen for every ten cows, but more are required where a very compact calving is anticipated.
When entering a pen with a calving or freshly-calved cow, have your escape route planned and never turn your back on the cow.
Keep dogs out of sight, in particular, as they can trigger a protective response. A good calving gate makes handling cows easier and much safer for you, the cow and calf.
Disinfect pens thoroughly between calvings and use plenty of straw.
Iodine solution and colostrum
After the calf is born, treat navels with a strong iodine solution. Ensure the calf gets adequate colostrum as soon as possible after birth (10% of calf body weight within six hours). The ability of a newborn calf to absorb antibodies from colostrum deteriorates rapidly from birth.
If thawing frozen colostrum, do so in good time. Freezing in bags or containers with a large surface area reduces thawing time. Overheating will destroy antibodies. Never use a microwave to defrost colostrum.
Be mindful of the risk of bringing disease into your herd via colostrum from another herd.