On our farm, we typically have round-the-clock watches during snowy and cold conditions. Typically, a cold weather spell brings on a few pregnancies, convenient right? We make our rounds checking the herd every hour or so. Many cows have calves without problems, but there is a chance of a breech calf or some other problem, which requires our assistance. Naturally, first calf heifers are the main ones to watch, as it is their first time calving. Taking the time to make routine checks means the few that need help get it in a timely manner.
After a calf is born it is taken straight to our “hot room,” where it is fed a mandatory gallon of tested colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk from a mother after giving birth. We test our colostrum to insure quality. It is full of antibodies specific to build up the newborns immunity. The calf also will receive its first vaccines of C and D antitoxin, as well as a navel dip of iodine to keep infection at bay. The “hot room” is to keep the calf warm during chilly nights, quite inviting when its freezing rain.
After the hot room the calf is taken to our calf barn where it is kept in a ring pen and fed 1 bottle in the morning and 1 bottle in the evening. It is kept in the ring pen until it is able to adequately nurse on its own, usually 2-3 feedings. Then the calf is moved to a mob pen. A mob pen is a 16’ x 18’ pen with 8 calves. These 8 calves are fed twice daily with milk replacer, grain and water and given fresh bedding every other day. Our calves are on an accelerated feeding program and weaned at 7 weeks of age.
Calving season may be a tough time, where all hands are on deck, but it is a rewarding time of new beginnings and family bonding.