Achieving a Successful Calving Season

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 Points to remember | Good management practices | Plan ahead

Points to Remember

  • Calves should receive colostrum milk from the cow as soon as possible after birth as this is important to its resistance to disease. Ideally the calf should consume 5% of its birth weight in colostrum (2 liters) in its first 12 hours of life.
  • Calves which do not nurse within 6 hours should be given colostrum with a stomach tube.
  • In heavily used calving grounds, the navel of newborn calves should be treated with a disinfectant.
  • Disinfection is very important in controlling the accumulation and spread of disease-causing microorganisms.
  • Develop an annual vaccination program with your veterinarian and maintain adequate records to insure that the beef herd health program is continued year after year.
  • Develop a program for reducing newborn calf diseases.
  • In case of an outbreak of calf diseases, have an accurate diagnosis made as soon as possible so corrective measures can be started.
  • If white muscle disease (Selenium deficiency) has been a problem, provide the herd with selenium fortified mineral or salt, or give injectable selenium and vitamin E preparations.
  • Calf scours is a nonspecific term covering a number of noninfectious and infectious intestinal diseases which can produce diarrhea, emaciation, dehydration, weakness, prostration and death.
  • Calves scour for many reasons, such as stress, colostrum deficiency, Vitamin A deficiency, nutritional influences of the dam, milk, bacteria and viruses.
  • Since scours in young calves are frequently a combined virus and bacterial problem, the greatest losses usually occur during the last half of the calving season.
  • In scours, the principal causes of death are usually dehydration and shock.
  • In respiratory disease, antibiotics and sulpha drugs are often used, but the reason is either to treat, prevent or control the secondary bacterial infection which may develop in addition to the virus infection.
Good Management Practices
  • If necessary, disinfect the navel of newborn calves.
  • Be sure the calf nurses as soon as possible as this has a bearing on its disease resistance ability.
  • Know the vital signs of a young calf and be alert to signs of a sick calf - lowered head and ears, rapid breathing, scours, abnormal posture, standing or lying down, unusual position in relation to the rest of the herd. Early treatment is essential.
  • Review procedure and have a fluid therapy program prepared for scouring calves, as dehydration and secondary disease problems are the big calf killers.
  • Be ready to resuscitate the calf if it does not start breathing within 15 - 20 seconds after birth.
  • Check cows that calve for signs that the calf has nursed.
Plan Ahead

Prepare for processing calves.
  • Review vaccination programs for calves. Secure vaccine.
  • Repair facilities to cause as little additional stress as possible on calves.
  • Have alternate plans in case of severe weather.

Other Documents in the Series

  Management in the Last Trimester of Pregnancy
Calving Season - Cows
Achieving a Successful Calving Season - Current Document
For more information about the content of this document, contact Linda Hunt.
This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on September 26, 2001.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 18, 2016.