Preparing for Calving Season

A few precautions before and during calving season can help avoid health problems for both the cow and calf. The Alberta SPCA reminds producers that a few simple precautions can improve animal health and reduce difficulties.

An important consideration going into calving season is making sure the cows have adequate nutrition. This is important both for the cows’ health and for the calves, since pre-calving nutrition of the dam has many important implications in the resistance of the newborn calf to stress and disease.

During late term pregnancy the fetus grows rapidly, placing increasing nutrient demands on the cow. In addition, cold weather increases the cow’s nutrient requirements. The feeding and nutrition program of the dam prior to calving will influence the health of her calf.

Some producers mistakenly believe that reducing nutrient intake prior to calving will reduce calf birth weight and subsequently reduce the incidence of calving difficulty. However, current research has proven this to be untrue, demonstrating that thin animals have a higher incidence of calving difficulty and lower quality colostrum. Milk production is dramatically lower in thin cows compared to cows in good condition.

Furthermore, cows in better body condition calve easier and produce better quality colostrum. They have healthier, more vigourous calves and tend to start cycling earlier after calving. This allows cows to be re-bred more uniformly, providing a more consistent calf crop the following year.

Other actions that can be taken to start calves off on the right “hoof” include preparation of a clean, dry area for cows that are calving. Keeping an adequate supply of bedding on hand can help keep the calving area free from mud and manure. 

Make sure all handling equipment and supplies are in place and in good working order, and of course, have your veterinarian’s contact information readily available in case of emergency.

There are plenty of helpful tips available from provincial agriculture ministries and university agriculture departments. For more information visit the following websites:

Canadian Forage Beef Industry: Calving Season Facts

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture: Getting the Cows Ready to Calve and Re-breed

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: Calving Season – Calves

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: Calving Season Cows

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: Effects of Nutrition on Beef Cow Reproduction