The 3 Stages of Calving Season

Calving season refers to the number of calves born within a specific period typically lasting 60-90 days. While spring (February-May) is the most common time to welcome new calves, calving can occur during any season. 

A controlled calving season is a valuable part of any cow-calf operation, as it ensures uniformity in new calves’ weight and age. It’s also safer and healthier for female cows. Heifers that calve at the beginning of the season have time to raise their newborn calves and recover from giving birth, so they’ll be healthy and prepared for the next season. 

  1. Preparing for Calving Season

Healthy cows equal healthy calves! Good nutrition, regular vaccinations, and parasite control are essential before calving season. Recommended vaccines for heifers and calves include clostridium vaccine, viral vaccines, pneumonia vaccine, vibro & lepto vaccine, and scour vaccine. You can control parasites with products like SafeGuard, Ivermectin, and Dectomax.

Heifers should maintain a body condition score (BCS) of 5.5-6.5 to ensure adequate nutrition. If a pregnant cow is malnourished, this can result in reduced body condition during calving, difficult births, poor lactation rates, and increased calf mortality. Keep pregnant cows happy and healthy with balanced rations and consistent monitoring and increased portions for cows that decline in BCS.

  1. During Calving Season

When it comes time for cows to give birth, make sure your equipment is clean and that all pens, chutes, and calving stalls are functional and ready to use. Essential calving equipment includes: 

  • Obstetrical sleeves
  • Obstetrical chains
  • Two obstetrical handles
  • Obstetrical lubricant
  • Pail and non-irritating disinfectant 
  • Antibiotics like oxytetracycline
  • Towels, paper towels, flashlight, and batteries 
  • 7% iodine tincture for the calf’s navel treatment
  • Colostrum replacer for weak calves with decreased suckle reflex 

First-calf heifers need more help than seasoned cows, but you should monitor all cows thoroughly. If issues arise and you intervene early, it reduces the chance of further losses. Look for signs of early labor, like restlessness and separation from the herd. 

Once a cow’s water bag breaks, she should deliver her calf within 30 to 60 minutes and if she doesn’t, examine her and see if assistance is needed. If you cannot deliver a calf safely on your own, call a veterinarian immediately.

  1. Post-Calving Care 

After calves are born, it’s essential to keep up with the mother and calf’s nutritional demands to keep them healthy and strong. Supplement regular grass and hay with minerals as needed. Make sure calves are up and nursing within a few hours of birth, as this allows them to receive their mother’s antibodies and instantly learn how to get vital nutrients. If a calf is lethargic, weak, or struggling to nurse, provide electrolytes or a milk replacer to help the little one get their nutrients. 

To make sure both baby and mama are comfy and cozy, regularly clean out muddy pens and always provide dry bedding. Rotate in fresh straw or shavings to keep things clean and mitigate excess moisture. If possible, designate a quarantine area with food and water for sick cows and calves so they can be treated while keeping the herd safe. 


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