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Preparing for calving

15 March 2019
Type Media Article

By Francis Bligh, Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Longford

With the calving season commencing on suckler farms, preparation, organisation and planning are all key management skills that will help during the busy weeks ahead. A live healthy calf from each cow is what every suckler farmer sets out to achieve so one of the most important facilities required is a clean, dry well bedded pen for a cow showing signs of calving. Safe and secure gates will ensure noting collapses and a head gate and calving gate will help to restrain a cow if assistance is required. These pens should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use. It is important to discuss vaccination options against scour with your vet. Where calves receive adequate colostrum soon after birth, vaccinations have a proven ability to reduce scour problems and associated workload. For weaker calves or where colostrum is not plentiful it is important to have a few litres of frozen colostrum in the freezer.  Three to four litres of colostrum in the first 2-3 hours is crucial. Try to make sure items like clean calving ropes, disposable gloves, iodine or chlorohexidine solution to treat navels, a clean calving jack, lubricant, electrolyte powders for scour treatment and a clean stomach tube are present. Now is the time to replace light bulbs, improve lighting, set up a red lamp and check drinkers. Where broadband exists, low cost wireless cameras linked to mobile broadband routers are becoming an ever increasing must have in calving sheds. Watching the cow through a laptop or mobile phone can help reduce visits to the shed. When organising calving think about the location of gates to help make movement of cows between slatted pens/loose housing and calving boxes easy. Keep an eye on cow body condition, silage quality and mineral requirements to make sure cows are in a healthy fit condition at calving. Adequate space in pens encourages cows to exercise and this can also help to reduce calving difficulty. Remember accidents with livestock account for 42% of all injuries on farms and cows can become aggressive before and after calving so try to keep vigilant.

Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Roscommon Town  (Tel: 090 6626166), Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021) and Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160). You can find us on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford.