Spring Calving Season Approaching Greg Highfill, OCES Area Extension Livestock Specialist Thus far, this has been a harsh winter for cattlemen. Snow cover has greatly increased the amount of hay fed, tightened hay supplies and increased price. Supplement cost increased significantly the last few months. Many cattle have been lost to drowning in frozen farm ponds during these storms. The market did sell $80 fed cattle last week. Good calf prices are definitely the light at the end of the tunnel. Calving Season Approaches. Over 75 percent of death loss in calves occur at birth or in the first two weeks. Good calving management can increase the number of calves you wean next year. Adequate Cow Nutrition. Survival of the neonatal calf is 20% higher in cowherds fed to meet their nutritional requirements during the last 60 days of gestation. Thin cows are weak during labor and have non-vigorous calves. Nighttime Feeding. During calving season it would be beneficial for cows to calve in the daytime. Begin nighttime feeding (5pm or later) when calving starts and over 70 percent of the cows should calve in the daylight hours (6am to 6pm). Their not sure why, but it works. Prepare for Calving. Provide a clean calving area. Have obstetrical sleeves, antiseptic lubricant and obstetrical chains and handles available. Labor. Calving is divided into three stages. 1. Uneasiness, seeking quite place. 2. Complete dilation of cervix, serious straining, delivery of calf. 3. Delivery of placenta. Stage 2 is normally 60-90 minutes for heifers and 30-60 minutes for cows. When should cattlemen help? Rule of thumb, if reasonable progress stops after the feet or water bag appear, assistance may be indicated. Examination for malpresentation is not detrimental if done in a quite, sanitary manner. If you can not safely deliver the calf yourself, it is time to call the veterinarian. Colostrum. Newborn calves have little immune function. Passive immunization is the transfer of maternal antibodies to calves through colostrum (first milk). These antibodies protect the calf from infection like scours and pneumonia. Nursing normally begins within 1 hour after birth. Maximum absorption of antibodies occurs between 2-6 hours of age and ends after 24 hours. Early nursing is vital. A lot of new data is demonstrating the long-term health status of beef cattle is related to proper colostrum intake. Your local OSU Extension office has Circular E-906 - Calving Management and videos VT-323 on parturition and VT-324 on dystocia. Bulls vs. Steers. An OSU Extension survey of Oklahoma sale barns showed that 1 of every 4 sale lots of male cattle were bull calves. The data showed that bulls receive $2.25 to $3.50 less per cwt. than steers. Cattlemen selling bull calves can increase calf value from $9.00 to $15.00 per head. OSU Animal Science Researchers recently studied the influence of method of castration on performance before and after weaning. At 2 to 3 months of age, one third of bulls were banded, one third were surgically castrated, and one third were left intact. The steers were implanted. Weight change from treatment to weaning was similar for all groups. Results suggest that in suckling calves implanted with an estrogenic growth stimulant, intact bulls had no advantage in weaning weight compared to banded or surgically castrated males. Following weaning the intact bulls were banded and all groups were re-implanted. Fifty days later, bulls banded at weaning tended to gain less weight than males that were banded or surgically castrated at 2 months of age. The OSU researchers conclude that castrating bulls at weaning may decrease post- weaning performance. Bulls should be castrated as early as possible before weaning to decrease stress, eliminate negative effects on post-weaning growth rate, and increase value at sale time.
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