The following is the final articles in a series of three posts featuring calving management practices and intervention strategies to help producers optimize newborn calf health and well-being. Read part oneto learn about resuscitation techniques and part two about colostrum.
Supplementing young calves with electrolytes is sometimes necessary. Electrolytes are given to calves showing signs of dehydration, usually due to scours. In the case of calf scours, most calves that die from scours don’t actually succumb to the virus or bacteria causing the symptoms, but rather die from dehydration. Adequately rehydrating calves when they are sick is key for calf survival. Here are a few things to remember when rehydrating calves: Continue reading →
The following is part two of a series of three posts featuring calving management practices and intervention strategies to help producers optimize newborn calf health and well-being. Read part one to learn about resuscitation techniques and part three to learn about when and how to use electrolytes.
Newborn calves are born with virtually no immunity of their own. Unlike other mammals, a cow’s placenta does not allow antibodies to pass from the mother to the calf during pregnancy, which means the calf must receive its initial immunity from the antibody-rich colostrum, or first milk, of the cow. This initial immunity is essential because it provides protective antibodies against many of the diseases that affect newborn calves, such as calf scours, navel abscesses, arthritis and pneumonia. If the calf is at risk of not having adequate colostrum, such as if it had a difficult birth, is a twin, is delivered via c-section, has a weak suckle reflex, or hasn’t sucked in the first few hours of life, supplementation is recommended. If a calf requires colostrum supplementation, here are a few things to consider. Continue reading →
The following is part one of a series of three posts on calving that include newborn calf management practices and intervention strategies to help producers create positive calving outcomes. Read part two for tips and tricks on colostrum and part three to learn about when and how to use electrolytes.
Calving is a natural process and most cows give birth to a healthy calf and everything goes as planned. However, there are times when things go wrong. Perhaps there is a malpresentation, such as a backwards arrival, or the calf’s foot is back. In some cases, perhaps calves do not take their first breath after a difficult labour. Here are a few tips to consider to get a calf up and going as soon as possible: Continue reading →
A version of this article, written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the January 2021 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
It’s called calving difficulty for a reason. They’re difficult to deliver, it’s difficult for the calf to survive, it’s difficult to watch it die, and it’s difficult to lose the $1,250 the calf could have sold for in fall. The Beef Cattle Research Council’s 2019 Adoption Rates of Recommended Practices by Cow-Calf Operators in Canada report indicated that around half of all preweaning death losses occur within 24 hours after birth, with a significant proportion of those attributed to calving difficulties. How you help a calf in the first few hours after a difficult birth is critical to determining whether it will survive to weaning or not.
It’s well known that providing timely calving assistance, effective calf resuscitation and colostrum are critical. But how you do these things is just as important as what you do. These calves have already been through a lot – providing the wrong kind of help can make it harder for them to survive. Sometimes doing the wrong thing is also harder for you. Continue reading →
For many cow-calf producers, calving season is a favourite time of year. After waiting 283 days, farmers are finally able to see the result of their breeding decisions as well as welcome a new crop of animals that will likely become a large portion of their annual revenue.
Just as every farm operates with an independent set of circumstances, and every farmer is unique themselves, calving season is going to look different on every operation. There is no one right method or time of year to calve a cow herd.
There are many interconnected variables that affect – or are affected – by calving season. Length and timing of breeding season, bull power, grazing and feed resources, target weaning time, marketing windows and methods, heifer development, mortgage payment deadlines, herd size, available labour, infrastructure, and tradition are a few different factors that play an important part in calving.
Looking at survey data over the past thirty years, there has been a trend, at least in western Canada, with producers transitioning from late winter/early spring calving in February and March, to later calving in April, May or June. Whether producers are thinking about making a shift in timing, or simply reassessing their decision to calve when they do, they should think about the risks and rewards of timing their most critical phase in cow-calf operations. What are the advantages or disadvantages of keeping the same season? What are the greatest challenges during calving on my farm and how can I manage them? What are the benefits of my existing calving season, and what are the drawbacks? How much labour do I need and how much do I have to get the job done?
The following producers have done their homework and planned ahead before shifting their seasons back or ahead in order to meet the needs of their particular farms and families. Continue reading →
The most important day of a calf’s life is the first one. There are some key factors that play a role in whether or not a baby calf gets off to a good start and research has demonstrated that the first 24 hours of life are critical in order for a calf to survive to weaning and beyond.
Interventions – follow-up care is important
Dystocia, or calving complications, pose a health risk for both the newborn calf and the cow. While dystocia can be partially managed with careful breeding choices and culling practices, proper nutrition, and managing for a body condition score of 3 (on a scale of 1-5) before calving, difficult deliveries can still occur.
Every scenario is different, however once a water bag appears, a calf should hit the ground within one hour for cows, or up to one and a half hours for a first-calf heifer. If this doesn’t happen, intervention may be needed, especially if no progress has occurred for thirty minutes, the cow stops pushing, or there are other signs of trouble. If there is a problem, a water bag may not always appear, so be observant of other behaviours that signal labour, such as tail switching, restlessness, the appearance of membranes or discharge, or a kink in the cow’s tail.
This past year we published 78 blog posts that offered production tips and decision tools, provided a science-based perspective on issues in the media, highlighted new beef, cattle and forage research projects and results, and announced other exciting initiatives. Of those, these were the top 10 most popular:
10) Three Producers Share Ideas That Improve Efficiency
Beef producers across the country are always looking to improve management and production practices that not only benefit cattle, but also reduce their workload, and help to save time and money. This article highlights 3 producers and a recent change they have made to improve efficiency on their operations those changes include improved calf identification measures, installing remote cameras to monitor watering systems, and adopting quiet livestock handling practices in a flexible year-round grazing system.
Lifelong health in a beef animal can start with early interventions to improve newborn calf health and prevent calf death. Ellen Crane, BCRC Extension Coordinator, will also demonstrate how to use the new BCRC website search tool, helping you find the information you’re looking for faster.
Registering on your smartphone? After you click ‘I am not a robot’, scroll up until you find the task to complete.
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 2019 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
I once spent a summer working for canola breeders. Some used traditional selection, while others were experimenting with transgenics. One traditionalist was known to say “sticking a new gene into a plant and expecting it to grow better is like throwing a new gear into a watch and expecting it to keep better time. It’ll probably get worse”. This article isn’t about canola or genetics, but it is about time and unintended consequences. Specifically, it’s about the timing of the breeding and calving seasons.
Canada’s cow-calf sector has moved towards fewer, larger beef cow herds. Calving later, on pasture has been a widely adopted strategy allowing producers to expand their cow herds without a proportional increase in equipment, labor, and facilities. When John Basarab led Alberta’s Cow-Calf Audits in the late 1980’s and late 90’s, breeding often started in May and calving started in late February. In contrast, 70% of the producers responding to the 2017 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey started breeding in June or July to calve in March or April.
Do you raise your own heifers? Or do you prefer to purchase your replacements? Regardless of your choice, developing heifers costs money and requires careful management.
Ideally, replacement heifers will go on to become long-term producers in the herd sothoughtful selection is critical. “Each producer has different resources and goals when they make the decision of whether they want to buy or retain heifers,” said Kathy Larson, a University of Saskatchewan economist. “Part of that decision needs to involve cost of production,” she advised during a recent BCRC webinar.