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Preparing for calving: Keep dogs out of sight when entering calving pens

Preparing for calving: Prepare well in advance of the main spring calving period, writes Nigel Gould at CAFRE.

Check facilities and calving supplies to allow enough time to replenish supplies and make any adjustments.

Preparing for calving

Important items include calving aids/ropes, iodine solution for navels, arm length gloves, calving lubricant, disinfectant, artificial/frozen colostrum, stomach tube and/or feeding bottle.

A general rule is to allow one calving pen for every ten cows, but more will be 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 as they can trigger a protective response.

A good calving gate makes handling cows much safer and easier for the farmer, cow, and calf alike.

Disinfect pens thoroughly between calvings, and use plenty of straw.


After the calf is born, treat navels with a strong iodine solution. Ensure an adequate quantity of colostrum is consumed by the calf 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 larger surface areas will reduce 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.

Lice treatment of cattle

Monitor cattle for signs of lice. The most common sign is cattle licking themselves more than normal and showing signs of discomfort.

Anything causing discomfort can have a negative effect on cattle performance. A pour-on product is often the treatment of choice, but note that not all products provide treatment for both sucking and biting lice.

Ivermectin-based injectable products are sometimes expected to control lice, however, this is really only the case for sucking lice. All animals in the shed need to be treated at the same time, otherwise, lice from untreated animals will move to those already treated.

Clipping the backs of cattle ensures the product makes contact with the skin as soon as possible.

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