Getting Calving And Calf Rearing Facilities Ready For Autumn Calving

Although the days of autumn calving are approaching, there is still time to get calving and calf-rearing facilities in order.

Regardless of what system you operate, sucklers or dairy, work will have to be carried out – if not done so already – to ensure a safe, clean, and fully functional environment is at the ready for when cows start to calve.

First things first, the calving area should be washed thoroughly. Disinfecting and washing the calving area will ensure that any diseases that might have been present are eradicated.

Many are preparing for autumn calving, make sure you have everything ready for action indoors should you need it

Power washing not only helps to clean the area, but can also be very useful at showing up any damage to gates or fixtures in the pens.

Therefore, once the area is washed down, a thorough check of the calving area should be completed to ensure all gates, including the calving gate and calving essentials such as the calving jack, are working properly.

Furthermore, ensure water troughs are clean and that they aren’t leaking. What’s not ideal is water from troughs falling down onto the straw creating a damp environment.

Anything being held together by bailing twine should be fixed properly before calving starts. Safety is priority number one at this time and corners should not be cut.

Then, after a thorough examination of the calving area is done and anything needing fixing is repaired, make sure plenty of air is getting into the shed. To do this, check that any sheeting or boarding isn’t blocked up, i.e. with cobwebs or straw.

Calving cameras should also be checked to ensure they are working properly.

Open up the doors of the shed fully to allow for the shed to dry out prior to calving starts. The last thing you want is to be calving cows and bringing calves into a damp environment, an environment that unwanted diseases can thrive in.

On a safety point, modern calving facilities have some form of a quick exit from the pen incorporated in the event a cow lunged for a farmer. If it’s a case where you don’t have way of getting out from a pen quickly, it should be something at now.

Calf shed

For suckler farmers, this job won’t be on the to-do list, but for autumn-calving dairy farmers, your work isn’t over just yet.

Again, the calf shed is going to need a thorough cleaning. For those that had it cleaned after the busy spring, it’s one less job to do now.

Much of the same principles that apply to the calving area apply to the calving shed.

Cleanliness is so important so ensure all pens, gates, water and feeding troughs are clean.

On top of that, for any farms with an automatic calf feeding system, it’s worthwhile seeing that it is working properly and if not, get it looked at.

(Source – Agriland – Michael Geary – 27/07/2022)

Gearing Up For Calving… Autumn Style

A cow in the dry period is like an athlete in pre-season, writes independent ruminant nutritionist Brian Reidy.

Beef and dairy autumn-calving herds are gearing up for busy season.

Obviously, both systems have slightly different management around this time, but the principles of both are still broadly similar: We need a healthy calf following an uneventful birth, a healthy cow that avoids metabolic issues, and above all produces the required milk post-calving while going in-calf again easily.

Dry Cows In The Dairy Herd

Most will aim to calve cows outdoors where possible, and that is ideal as long as metabolic diseases can be avoided. Many dairy herds have unfortunately learned over the years that calving outside has resulted in problems due to cows being over-conditioned or consuming too much high-potassium grass. 

All of this can result in milk fever and retained cleanings at a far higher than acceptable level. If this is the case on-farm, then you must take control of the situation and manage intakes pre-calving.

Remember that a cow in the dry period is like an athlete in pre-season; you must prepare the system for the season ahead. Offering dry cows a balanced diet of minerals, fibre, and an appropriate level of protein to manage condition and promote rumen bug populations pre-calving will allow the cow to hit the ground running post-calving. 

If this can be done while the group remain outdoors then great, but for many, it involves simply having to house cows for the last few weeks before calving to avoid unnecessary issues.

Dry Sucklers

Again, at this time of year, almost all sucklers will calve while outdoors. They tend not to have as many metabolic issues as their dairy cousins, but nonetheless, they do occur, so keep an eye that cows are not over-conditioned, are eating plenty of rougher forages and that you provide them with an appropriate source of minerals, based on what has worked well in recent years. 

Keeping cows on a relatively low plain of nutrition may involve dry cows running behind youngstock, cows with calves, or finishers. This means that the productive animals can get the best of the grass and the dry cows can tidy up behind.

Also, keep a close eye on dry cows for mastitis as there has been a lot of reported incidence in the last few weeks – there are plenty of flies about which can be an issue.

Calving Ready

Make sure you have everything ready for action indoors just in case you need to assist any births: Disinfect calving boxes before the season gets going; check that the water troughs in the calving boxes are working; see that the calving jack is working and that the two ropes are fit for the season; ensure that your calving camera is working correctly. 

Also, make sure that if you have a calving gate that it is fully functioning. Remember that cows can get very aggressive around calving, so properly working equipment is essential. Also remember that if you are in doubt about a calving, call your vet sooner rather than later.

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Brian Reidy – 02/08/2022)

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