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Many beef operations are getting prepared for calving season. It’s a period when some producers rush to gather supplies, check facilities and bank a few hours of sleep for the long hours to come.

A year’s worth of preparation for calving will save you from headaches and additional worry.

The first step is having your heifers grown adequately to start cycling before the beginning of your set breeding season.

Additionally, vaccinating and setting them on a heath protocol ensures the best conception rates and smooth transition into the breeding herd.

Open heifers need to be adjusted onto the feeding or the grazing program they are going to be on during breeding.

Also, you should select a sire that will decrease potential calving issues, prepare to calve in a defined window, and give the females their pre-breeding health protocols.

Entering the winter, the cows and bred heifers should have good body condition and maintain themselves on a positive plane of nutrition.

You need to make sure they have the nutrients and minerals to help produce a large volume of high-quality colostrum and have adequate body condition.

The old idea of thin heifers calving easier than heavy is not a wise plan. Females that are in proper body condition will be able go through the birthing process, get up and care for their calf, supply it with need nutrients, and then rebreed in a timely manner.

We have taken a look in the rearview mirror at what hopefully has taken place over the last year. Now, let’s think about ways to help us overcome the unexpected challenges of the approaching calving season. Being prepared reduces stress in the heat of the moment.

Preparing the Location

Make sure you have a plan for providing the best calving location possible — dry, out of the wind, and as clean as possible.

Your facilities and past experiences will dictate if this is a pasture with sod cover, some trees and breaks, or maybe a well-bedded calving barn. Think about how you will maintain the best environment for newborn calves from the beginning to the end of calving season.

We always hope for a calving season with little or no issues; however, we need to have a plan before any problem occurs.

How are you going to sort out the cow or heifer that is not calving on her own on a rainy night in March? Having a location where you can sort, handle and treat a calving cow, or a cow with a young calf, is important. You’ll need to make sure that these facilities are safe for both the cow and yourself.

Supplies gathered ahead of time and stored in a location that you or your helper can easily grab also simplify calving season.

Listed below are some things that I use and encourage you to have in your “Calving Toolbox” together: OB gloves, OB lube, rope, halter calving chains, calf jacket, flashlight, colostrum replacer, nipple bottle, calf drench, calf blanket, old towels and heifer treats.

(On my operation, heifer treats equals a little grain or hay or something you might drip on a new calf to entice the heifer into licking her calf if she is hesitant.)

Have the Vet on Standby

The other item to have is your veterinarian’s phone number. Have this in your phone as well as somewhere that a helper might find it if you are “engaged in the assistance.”

Calling a veterinarian for help in unusual or hard calving makes sense before you and the cow are completely worn out.

This is when having a good relationship with your veterinarian is helpful, especially if the only call they will ever receive is about that backward calf on a cold February night.

Raising cattle offers several rewards that come after some challenges. Calving season can flip from one side of the coin to the other quickly, so a producer will need to have an observant eye, patient manner, and dedication in their toolbox too.

Take the time to observe your cattle as often as your schedule allows. Look for the signs of trouble that may indicate you need to step in and offer assistance.

Experience teaches when to step in and when to give a calving animal just a little more time. This is a hard line to walk, but my thoughts are the results are better if you step in a little early rather than wait too long.

Good luck and may you find all your calves up and nursing.

Dustin Heeter is a beef producer at Heritage Hill Farm in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania.


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