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Preparation and Planning – Calving Checklist


For spring calving suckler herds the start of a new year should prompt us to think about preparing for the 2022 calf crop. A little bit of preparation and planning at this stage could leave things running a lot smoother when calving begins. Beef Specialist Aidan Murray gives some guidance

If you have scanned your cows entering the result on the ICBF Herdplus website will generate an expected calving profile. The profile is useful in a number of ways it will identify:

  • what cows are calving
  • what they are in calf to
  • the number of days to calving and likely due date.

This will highlight when the peak calving period will be and as shown in the table any heifers calving can be highlighted in a different colour as they are likely to need extra attention. It is useful to print off the profile and leave it in the jeep/car/calving shed to familiarise yourself with actual dates.

Cow Condition

Continue to monitor cow condition with primary aim to stop individual cows getting overfat or equally to pull out cows that are getting thin for a bit of extra feeding. Older cows, cows carrying twins or lame cows could lose condition quickly as calving approaches. Cows that are overfat can be restricted to 80% of their normal intake but avoid severely restriction in the last 6 weeks pre calving.   

Pre calver minerals

In the 6 weeks prior to calving it is worth giving cows a good pre calver mineral. In a pre calver levels of Calcium 0-2%, Sodium 15 – 25% , Phosphorous 1- 3% , and Magnesium  15-20%. Trace elements of Se, Co, Zn, Mn, I and Cu will all be included at various levels in mg/kg. Vitamins A,D3,E and B12 should also be included. The main benefit of the pre calver will be on calf vigour and viability.

Calf Health

If you have had trouble in previous years with calf scour have you been able to identify what was the causal agent. Can it be vaccinated against? Has the calving area been thoroughly cleaned out and disinfected. Are you getting colostrum into every calf as quickly as possible after calving. Have you adequate straw to ensure calves are well bedded.  Can you make sure that calving sheds/calf creep areas are well ventilated but draught free?

Calving Equipment

The checklist below is a list of items that you will find useful to have on hand at calving time. A quick check of the calving jack to make sure it is not slipping or ceased. Have you a spare set of the calving ropes? Have you a way of lifting a cow that might go down either during or after calving?

If you dip the calf navels after birth have you adequate iodine/chlorohexidine available? Is there a good stomach tube/feeding bottle available to get colostrum into calves that may be weak after birth?

Calving Checklist

Are Cows Scanned? Use ICBF expected Calving Profile:

  1. Expected Calving Dates
  2. Cows Carrying Twins
  3. Peak workload
  • Cows vaccinated against Scour
  • Calving pens Cleaned and Disinfected
  • Dry Cow Minerals for 6 weeks Pre calving
  • Are cows clean? (Tails/Flank)
  • Have you got frozen colostrum/biestings?
  • Are Calving cameras working? Calving Sensors working
  • Have you ordered sufficient Calve tags?

Equipment on Hand

  • Calving Gloves
  • Calving Lub
  • Calving Jack
  • Good Calving Ropes
  • Iodine
  • Chlorohexidine
  • Stomach Tube/Feeding Bottle
  • Electrolyte/Kaolin Powder
  • Thermometer
  • Warming Box/Calf Jacket
  • Calciject/Magniject
  • Flutter Valve
  • Cow Lifter

Think Safe

Finally is the calving gate/crush secure enough to be able to hold cows for calving? Every year we hear of farmers being attacked by cows around calving time. Always carry your mobile phone in case you need to call for help. If in doubt never enter a pen where a cow shows any signs of nervousness/aggression. Remember around calving even the quiet cow can turn on you so please be extra careful this Spring.