A challenging heifer calving…

By Sutton’s Livestock

Now is the time to invest in our first calving heifers to ensure they have the energy and mineral balance required for the final growth of the fetus, the significant energy demand of calving and the lactation to follow. If we don’t invest the time and feed into our springing heifers, we run the risk of excessive need to pull calves, down heifers and increased stock losses.

Some things to think about leading into calving:

  • Pre-calving
    • Sufficient ENERGY is key this year
      • We tend to under-estimate late pregnancy energy requirements, this puts heifers into negative energy balance and at risk of calving related issues.
      • Compared to an empty heifer, there is a 40% increase in daily energy requirements in the final month of pregnancy.
      • Inadequate energy can lead to lazy calving (inability to push out a normally sized, normally positioned calf), or to down heifers from ketosis.
    • Mineral balance is essential with the high calcium demands of calf bone growth and milk production. Lead-up and calving licks are a good investment, especially in dry years when the paddock lacks plant bulk and diversity. Loose licks are superior as cattle cannot generally consume enough from lick blocks to provide significant levels of minerals or urea.
    • Have gear prepared & ready to go; calving jack, ropes, water, dis-infectant & obstetrical lube.
  • Calving
    • Select a calving paddock with a good feed bulk, or supplement deficiencies with hay and cottonseed. This is essential.
    • Check heifers at least morning and evening. Naturally cattle should calve at night. Heifers looking to calve during the middle of the day need to be kept a close eye on as something may be wrong. Likewise, heifers calving within the mob (haven’t walked off) may be a concern.
    • If mob size allows, count the mob every time. It’s the one missing animal in the gully that might be having trouble.
    • A heifer actively calving should have it within the hour. If she is not progressing, she is a candidate to assist.
    • If you have the ability to walk-off calved heifers and their calves; it gives the opportunity to preserve feed in the calving paddock. This is key when conditions are tight like this year. It also likely helps to reduce mis-mothering.
  • Post-calving
    • Maintaining adequate nutrition post calving is essential to milk production and therefore calf growth as well as fertility for the upcoming joining. We all know first-calver joining is the most challenging.

Hot-tips for pulling a difficult calf:

  • Hot tip: A normally presented calf (front feet and head first) normally has little pressure on the umbilical cord; that means THERE IS TIME to get it out right. Taking an extra 5 minutes to pull the calf once she is on the crush will not risk a viable calf. Excessive force can permanently damage heifers and calves.
  • Hot tip: Pull out and down in a normally presented calf, this is the direction of least resistance. In a breach calf pull straight out until the backlegs are delivered.
  • Hot tip: When the calf is half way out, begin spinning the entire calf so the head and shoulders are upside down. This encourages the calf’s hips to enter the maternal hips on the diagonal; the greatest diameter, reducing the risk of getting hip-locked.
  • Hot tip: Follow up difficult pulls with anti-inflammatories, this a cheap investment in heifer recovery. Contact your vet if you have specific concerns.

Related posts