Ag Connection
Your link to the Universities for ag extension and research information

Volume 9, Number 1
January 2003


This Month in Ag Connection


[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

Benefits of Incorporating Legumes in Grass Pastures
Consider Frost Seeding

1. Total Forage Yield

  • The following is a 2-yr study done in Lexington, KY.


DM Yields,

  Fescue-Red Clover 

6 lb. Seed/ac (No Nitrogen)


  Fescue + Nitrogen 

0 N lb/ac 
90 N lb/ac 
180 N lb/ac


  Taylor, T.H., et. al., University of Kentucky, 1978

2. Improved Forage Quality 

  • Higher palatability, intake, digestibility, and nutrient content resulting in increased growth rates, reproductive efficiency, and milk production


Daily Gain

Total Gains





Fescue + Ladino Clover




Fescue + 150 lb N/ac




Hoveland, C.S., et. al., Auburn, Alabama, 1981



Conception Rate %




Tall Fescue



Tall Fescue + Legume



For more information: UMC Guide 4651, Renovating Grass Sod With Legumes 
(Author: Wesley Tucker, Ag Business Specialist)

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

Calving Season Management

Calving season is here and it is time again to review how to manage potential problems.

Assisting With Calving 
Approximately 80 percent of all calves lost at birth are anatomically normal. Most of them die because of injuries or suffocation resulting from calving or delayed calving. Knowing when and how to assist (or more importantly, when the situation calls for the timely attention of an experienced veterinarian) can make a big difference in the calf crop from year to year. Reproductive losses, which affect the percent calf crop weaned each year, are very high in the first two weeks of life and are second only to losses due to failure to conceive! 

The first step to a successful calving season is recognizing a normal calving. As long as the calf is normally presented, the vast majority of animals will give birth without assistance. Recognizing a normal calving that does not require assistance can be as important as knowing when calving is abnormal and requires assistance.

Stages of Normal Delivery

Stage and Time


(2 to 6 hours)

  1.  Calf rotates to upright position
  2.  Uterine contractions begin
  3.  Water sac expelled

(1 hour or less)

  1.  Cow usually lying down
  2.  Fetus enters birth canal
  3.  Front feet and head protrude first
  4.  Calf delivery complete

(2 to 8 hours)

  1.  Button attachments on placenta relax
  2.  Uterine contractions expel membranes

The most likely animals on the farm to have problems are first calf heifers. Less than 2% of calving difficulties occur in mature cows. Special attention should be given to young heifers, which are also more apt to tire quickly, especially if they are in sub-optimal body condition.

Tips on When and How to Assist the Cow 
(Taken from Dr. Richard Randle, DVM, University Outreach & Extension)

Rule of thumb: Assist after 30 minutes of no progress. 
Cleanliness is a must. Introduction of bacteria by equipment or arms of the person assisting can reduce fertility by delaying return to estrus and lowering conception. Wash and disinfect equipment, arms, and perineal area (anus and vulva). 
Do NOT use liquid soap as a lubricant. It breaks down the natural lubricant of the cow. Methylcellulose based lube is best. Can also use cooking oil, mineral oil or vaseline.
Calving area should be 12 square feet minimum, covered, well lit and well bedded. 
Assessing the situation by asking these four questions each time during an assist. Ask and answer in this order. 
1.  Has the cervix dilated? 
2.  Is the water sac broken? 
3.  Is the calf in the proper position? 
4.  Can the calf pass through the pelvis?
You can tell if the cervix is dilated by sliding your palm along the vaginal wall toward the uterus. You should not feel cervix or any cervical ridges (should be continuous and smooth). Assisting prior to full dilation can damage the cow and injure the calf. 
Once the water sac is broken, it is important to make good progress. First, because there is a loss of lubrication. Second, the impetus to take the first breath is the pressure differential between an all water environment and an all air environment. If the calf has tried to begin breathing, you will see a frothy mouth and nostrils. NEVER try to rupture the sac (unlike in horses and humans where rupturing the sac can increase strength of contractions and speed delivery).
If the position of the fetus is abnormal, use your best judgment to determine if you can correct the situation or should call the veterinarian. Approximately 5% of calving difficulties result from abnormal presentation, and most need the expertise of a veterinarian to assist. 
Assess the size of the calf relative to the birth canal. Forcing a large calf through a small pelvic opening can result in injury and/or death of the cow and calf. If the head and front feet are still in the birth canal, a veterinarian can still deliver via caesarian. 
Dr. Randle recommends 60-inch chains as opposed to 30-inch chains. Chains should be attached below the dewclaw and above the hooves. Placement is important to avoid injuring the calf. 
Pull alternately on each leg to "walk" the shoulders out.  At this point, traction should be applied straight back toward the tail head. All traction should be applied gradually to prevent damage that will result in later infertility of the cow. 
Once the head and shoulders are free, rotate the calf 90 degrees to aid in passage of the hips. Traction should be applied downward. 
If the calf becomes "hip locked", the umbilical can be pinched. If delivery is delayed, make sure the calf begins breathing normally and call for professional help. 
All posterior (rear feet first) presentations are an emergency. Delivery must be made quickly and professional assistance is preferred. 

Some other tips from Dr. Randle. 
It is best for a cow to lie on her left side so that the rumen lies under and not on top of the calf. Always set the cow back up after birth to avoid bloat.

Breach births and/or uterine fatigue are often characterized by a cow that acts like she wants to calve, then stops and grazes for a while, repeating this behavior several times. Call for assistance! 

Importance of the Calf’s First Meal
That first meal that the newborn calf gets is essential to the calf’s health. The newborn calf is virtually devoid of circulating antibodies and is completely vulnerable to disease. Thus, the calf relies on antibodies acquired from colostrum for protection against common disease-causing organisms (pathogens). Significant amounts of antibodies obtained from high-quality colostrum are transferred across the small intestine and into the blood during the first few hours of life (passive immunity).     

Blood antibody levels of newborn calves are affected by several factors: concentration of colostrum ingested, interval after birth to first suckling, feeding method, and genetic, physiological and/or environmental factors. Colostrum concentration and interval from birth to first feeding are the most important factors.     

Antibody concentration is highest in first milking colostrum. Antibody concentration is variable among cows, however concentrations are the lowest in first lactation heifers. Cows and heifers that are in good body condition at calving are more likely to produce adequate amounts of high-quality colostrum than are cows and heifers that are thin at calving and losing body weight.

Age at first feeding is extremely important. The calf is able to absorb colostral antibodies for only a short time. After 6 to 12 hours of age, the ability to absorb antibodies begins to decline at an increasing rate until 24 hours of age, when absorption ceases. This decline can be measured by the decline in the level of immunoglobins in the blood.     

In order for the calf to consume an adequate amount of colostrum, the calf must be able to stand and walk, find the teat and suckle. Also, the cow must be standing, have a good maternal bond and have teats small enough for the calf to grasp. Any problems in these areas can lead to late and/or decreased colostrum intake. Calves born without assistance are quicker to stand and nurse than calves resulting from hard pulls.     

Calves that do not suckle should be fed at least 2 quarts of fresh or frozen colostrum within the first 6 hours of birth and another 2 quarts within the next 12 hours. Bottle feeding or esophageal feeder, although inferior to natural suckling, are better than no access to colostrum.     

Management practices should focus on the calf to receive adequate antibody passage by ensuring that the dam is able to deliver a healthy calf and the calf is able to consume adequate amounts of high-quality colostrum shortly after birth. 

(Author: Wayne Shannon, Livestock Specialist, University Outreach & Extension, )

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online]

Taxation Tidbit:  Self-Employed Health Insurance Deduction

If you are self-employed, the percentage deduction for your payments on health insurance and qualified long-term care insurance coverage for yourself, your spouse and dependents has been increased to 70% for 2002. This deduction is reported on Form 1040 as an adjustment to calculate “adjusted gross income”.


You cannot deduct health insurance payments for any month you were eligible to participate in a health plan subsidized by your or your spouse’s employer. 
Generally, the deduction cannot be greater than the net income from the business.

Good News: 
The deductible percentage for health insurance coverage increases to 100% for 2003.

(Author: Parman R. Green, Ag Business Specialist)

[This Month in Ag Connection] [Ag Connection - Other Issues Online] 

University of Missouri ExtensionAg Connection - Ag Connection Newsletter,  January 2003 -- Revised: April 20, 2004