Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spring Calving Time is Almost Here!

Another great article from  Click the blog title link for full text.  Presented here is Halliburton Boopsie, AKA Wanda Mae, going through the various stages of calving a bull calf sired by J.West's King Cole.



by: Stephen B. Blezinger  Ph.D, PAS

 ". . .We know, fortunately, that most calves are born alive and unassisted. We also know that those that require assistance create some of the greatest headaches on the farm. This is especially true on ranches that purchase or retain and calve out heifers. Some current data indicates that an estimate 16 to 18 percent of all heifers calved require some type of assistance with the calving process. That can be compared to about three to four percent of cows which may require assistance. . .(Note: Generally, British White cows rarely need calving assistance unless it's an unusual problem, like a breech birth.)

The Precalving Period
Management during the last third of pregnancy is very critical, especially for the growing heifer and developing calf. The producer must keep in mind that the heifer must continue to grow structurally and gain body weight during this 90-day period. The weight of the fetus and fetal fluids and membranes will increase about .90 lb per day. Therefore, the heifer needs to gain about 1 to 1.5 lbs per day to sustain her growth and that of the fetus. However, a heifer should not gain excessive weight and become fat as this may increase the likelihood of calving difficulty since a significant amount of this fat may be deposited in and around the reproductive organs. 

If the heifer is on a deficient nutritional level, she will draw nutrients from her body tissues to provide for the developing calf. The calf may lack vigor or energy at birth and need help nursing. These heifers may be short of colostrums, which is a component of the first milk given by the female that passes on crucial antibodies to the calf that helps build the calf's immune system. In extreme cases, the calf may be born dead or die shortly after birth. Milk production will usually be decreased, which will reduce growth rate and weaning weight of the calf. Also, the heifer will tend to rebreed late or may fail to rebreed. All this said, it is obvious that producers cannot afford to compromise the nutritional plane of bred heifers. 

Some producers feel that reducing energy and/or protein intake prior to calving will reduce calf birth weights and, subsequently, calving difficulty and calf losses. Research does not agree with this. Restricting feed to heifers may reduce calf birth weights, but does not reduce calving difficulty. It may also decrease the percent of cows cycling and conceiving during the breeding season and it may reduce the weaning weight of the calves. Therefore, the practice of reducing feed to heifers in average or thin condition prior to calving is not advisable. However, feeding excess protein or energy to heifers should also be avoided."