Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missorui Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
January 20, 2000

Management Thoughts for the Calving Season

The calving season is just around the corner. For many of us this means it is time to think about management techniques that will not only promote a high calving percentage but give an excellent start for having available all the market potential for this fall. Calves lost throughout the calving season certainly add to the cost of maintaining the cow herd and reduce the market potential for the beef cow enterprise.

This year has placed added strain on many producers with the reduced water supply.  Almost every week some producer informs me that they have a pond that has ceased to be available for watering the beef herd. The warmer than normal winter has been a blessing for many producers.  If we had experienced severe cold and 12 to 14 inches of ice on many ponds, the amount of available water would be considerably less than we currently have available.

One very important concept of cow herd management that always seems to promote a positive result from the calving season is to move the cow/calf pairs soon after birth to a clean pasture. This will be a problem for many due to the availability of water. However, if this management area is available for you, this is a very important concept that seldom fails to work. Breaking the cycle between cows pre and post calving increases the chances for an improved health environment for newborn calves.

Another very important management technique is to make sure the newborn calf receives colostrum milk soon after birth. There is a significant loss in the absorptive capacity of the intestine of the calf for colostrum after 12 hours of age. Observing calf vigor is a major indication if the newborn has received colostrum. If you need to provide colostrum to a newborn calf the following considerations will assist. Colostrum from dairy cows tends to have a reduced amount of concentration compared to beef cows. This variation is related to the amount of production since dairy cows are higher producers. Also 2-year-old heifers have a higher concentration of colostrum than older beef cows. Again this is due to the volume produced since older females generally out produce younger females.

Another management tool that will assist with newborns is to provide a clean, dry area for them to bed down. Having some hay that was not consumed by the herd provides an excellent tool to reduce the amount of heat lost by the newborn. Cold wet ground removes much more heat form the animal compared to areas that have dry bedding.

The first 3 weeks of life is a very critical period for newborn calves. For each day the calf  survives past 2 to 3 weeks of age, the chances increase considerably for reduced health problems. This is very important because calves that experience respiratory problems early in life frequently  carry these problems with them and adverse circumstances occur in the feedlot or heifer development stage.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - January 20, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT012000.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004