Calving time requires preparation

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

The last three months before calving is a critical time for cows and heifers.
Nutrition needs are high with a rapidly-growing calf, milk production coming on stream, and cold weather to overcome. Energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals are important.
Cows on an adequate diet will produce a vigorous calf with less difficulty and provide colostrum high in antibodies.
Many cows are on a hay ration with no grain supplement. Thirty-five pounds of dry hay at nine percent crude protein provides about 2.5 pounds of protein and 15 pounds of energy.
This is adequate for medium-sized cows weighing 1,200-1,300 pounds, with a body condition score of 2.5 out of 5.
Sometimes we forget salt and mineral. Available mineral is especially important on a hay diet as hay doesn’t provide all the necessary minerals.
A commercial mineral has some vitamins, as well. A 1:1 mineral (one part calcium to one part phosphorus) is sufficient, with magnesium and selenium included as key trace minerals.
Selenium, in particular, helps prevent white muscle disease in young calves. This mineral will work with mixed legume/grass hay.
Provide cobalt iodized blue salt. Loose salt and mineral can be mixed 50:50, with the salt increasing the palatability of the mineral. Salt blocks are fine, too, with loose mineral available separately.
Now that you have prepared the cows and heifers, be prepared for when the calves start coming. It requires less guesswork to keep calf records right from the beginning of the calving season (this information is useful).
Birth dates show the length of a calving period. It will indicate whether most calves are born within a 60-day, 90-day, or longer period.
Ideally, you want the shortest calving period possible, from both a labour and a financial aspect. A uniform group of calves is more attractive at sale time, and many studies have shown that larger lots of uniform calves at sale time attract more bidders and garner more dollars for the producer.
Tag and record the identification number beside the birth date.
Calves are age-verified in an effort to add value at market time. This is a tool used to meet beef export requirements on age at slaughter.
It is more accurate when records are kept from the start.
Vaccination, de-horning, and castration dates and methods are helpful for marketing purposes as calf buyers are looking for this information.
Let them know what you have done.
Dates to remember
•Jan. 24–Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association AGM, 7 p.m., Our Lady of the Way, Stratton; and
•Jan. 31–Grower pesticide safety course, Emo (call 1-800-652-8573 to register).