NDSU Extension Service calving checklist
Assemble supplies and equipment:
- Warm water supply
- Plastic sleeves
- Obstetrical lube
- Halter, cow restraint mechanisms
- Obstetrical chains
- Fetal extractor
- Ear tags and applicator
- Tatoo set and ink
- Frozen colostrum
- Calf feeding bottle/esophageal feeder
- Iodine to treat navels
- Birth weight scales
Provide calving facilities:
- Sheltered area for pulling calves
- Clean bedding
- Comfortable maternity pens
- Sufficient lighting
- Facilities for warming chilled calves
- Electrolytes for dehydrated calves
Dealing with a scour outbreak:
Sometimes, no matter how many preventive measures you take, calf scours show up in the best-managed herds. Still, you should be prepared for an outbreak every year, developing a program with your veterinarian focusing on detection, isolation, diagnosis and treatment.
- Pre-plan a course of action with your veterinarian and implement it immediately when the first case occurs.
- Isolate affected calves immediately and do not expose healthy calves because scours organisms are highly contagious and spread rapidly through contact and even inhalation.
- Identify the causative organism. Your veterinarian may recommend sampling the stool of a sick calf to culture and identify the causative organism.
- Prevent dehydration, because this is usually the most immediate concern with scours. Your veterinarian can outline a fluid therapy to be used.
All products and tools should be on hand well in advance of the calving season.
A Few More Calving Tips
-- Ronald Olsen, DVM
Moses Lake, WA
I’m a veterinarian with 40 years’ experience. I also taught veterinary obstetrics at Washington State University and had the good fortune to be able to use the artificial uteri to teach the students proper manipulation of the fetus during obstetrical management.
-- Ronald Olsen, DVM
- If the calf is in anterior presentation, with the head into the birth canal, and two people pulling on one leg can’t visualize the leg 4 in. past the carpus (knee), that calf isn’t going to come without severe damage to the cow and calf. If it’s a posterior presentation, then the same two people should be able to exteriorize the hock with both feet through the pelvis. If these criteria can’t be met, it’s time for either a cesarean if the calf is alive or a fetotomy if the calf is dead.
- To prevent hiplock when delivering a calf, it’s important to remember that the largest dimension of the cow’s pelvis is top to bottom and the largest dimension of the calf is side to side. So if you’re helping the cow calve, the first thing to do, once the calf's head is exteriorized, is to rotate the calf 180° (turn the front of the calf until its sternum is facing the cow's tail; this will rotate the hips of the calf 45° and likely prevent hiplock).
- If there is a posterior presentation, rotate the calf 45° before you begin to put any tension on the calf. If you come upon a cow with a hiplock and anterior presentation, grasp the wing of her ilium (the broad, dorsal, upper and largest of the three principal bones that comprise either half of the pelvis) and push the calf back into the cow about 1 in., and rotate the calf 45° by twisting the calf’s pelvis.
- I always told students that the calf is like pulling on a rope, not pulling on a 2x4. Pulling at the cow’s heels will just force the calf farther down into the small part of the pelvis, whereas pulling at a 5-10° angle past her spine will help lift the calf up to the larger part of the pelvis. The back of the calf won’t rise up as the front is forced down. The calf can breathe once the head is outside so be careful to not exert continuous pressure on it.
- The best lubricant for obstetric use in my experience is "Crisco" shortening, which is cheap and readily available. It sticks to the calf and to your arm and won’t kill the cow if it makes its way into her abdomen.
- One trick for a calf that’s been stressed in delivery is to always pull the hind legs under the calf past its ears. Thus, the calf will be laying on its sternum and can breathe without having to lift its weight to expand its lungs.
A well-kept calving book is critical
By Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Center
One could say the future of beef starts with a calving book. Certainly, source and age verification starts with a calving book. Now is the time to be planning on getting cattle ready for age- and source-verification for next fall.
The North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association (NDBCIA) has participated in source and age verification for several years. The process is not complicated, but if one was to speak in general terms, the process often is not well understood.
The NDBCIA provides a calving book because, no matter how complicated various programs become, a calving book that notes the date a calf was born and the identification of that calf the day the calf was born is the best starting point there is.
Therefore, a well-kept calving book is critical. Through the years, the process has been improved. Today, producers can order calving books that already have the electronic identification (EID) preprinted. In other words, when a producer tags a calf with the herd numbering system, an EID button that matches the calving book may be placed securely in the calf’s ear at the same time.
After the visual identification number is placed in the calving book and aligned with the proper EID, the calf is ready to apply to an age- and source-verification program. As producers, the temptation is to put off tagging calves with an EID until later in the season. The thinking is that there is uncertainty about implementing the process.
There is a challenge that the NDBCIA has seen. As producers make the decision to age- and source-verify, the calves already are moving into the marketing channel. Therefore, producers cannot keep up with paperwork and processing as their calves enter the marketing channels, so tempers can get a little heated.
Buyers want the appropriate assurance and verified paperwork to accompany the calves to their next place of residence. The goal of the NDBCIA is to have age- and source-verification completed by midsummer. That way, a producer still maintains marketing flexibility and the verification process does not have to interfere with the marketing process. G r a n t ed, not all p r o d u c e r s have calving books, but for those who do, why not use a calving book that has preprinted EIDs? Why not apply the EID button at calving for ease of handling and record verification? If calving time does not work for placing an EID, branding or spring calf processing could be a good time.
If done during spring processing, the EID number needs to correspond to the calving book and the tags crosschecked to assure that the correct EID was given to the right calf. The time spent doing things right certainly is rewarded come fall as the industry is searching for more and more verified calves. The future is complicated. The processes and documentation required for verification are not going to go away. We no longer sell our calves to the neighbor to feed out. Producers sell their calves to the world.
As calves enter the marketplace, there are very unique differences in cattle. They may be all the same color, bellow the same tune and eat the same hay, but they are not the same cattle. Some have the right paperwork and some don’t.
The future is not unlike crossing borders where you need to have your paperwork in order. The result is three lines. The first line is made up of those who move through quickly because they only require a nod or slight verification.
The second line has all those who could get through but they do not have their paperwork in order. Tempers get heated, but paperwork takes time and the lines get long. The last group is those who are turned back because they lack the appropriate paperwork to move forward.
The sad part, there really are no large differences in cattle type, ability to perform or the owners’ ability to produce high-quality calves. The only difference is how the calves are prepared for market. It is not easy, and no one is saying it is. However, in the future, the sooner the calves can be prepared, the more likely they will end up in the first line. If nothing else, that is worth peace of mind. Preprinted calving books can help, so give your tag supplier a call.
February, March, and April are heavy calving months, and management decisions during this period will have dramatic effects on the operation's productivity. Following are tips and items needed fo calving.