Spring calving will start on many suckler farms during February, which is just over five weeks away and will soon slip around.

As such, thoughts should be turning to getting the calving shed prepared before the next crop of calves hit the ground.

Outlined are some jobs to get calving facilities ready in good time.

1. Remove any cattle using the calving shed

When a cow or calf is sick, injured or needing isolation, they can often be housed in a calving box due to limited housing options.

If there are sick animals currently using the calving shed as a sick bay, they should be removed now. These animals will be shedding disease.

Calves have no natural immunity when born, so the last thing these animals need is to be exposed to a build-up of disease pathogens in the area where they start off life.

2. Power wash the shed

Calving sheds should be washed using a pressure hose and, if possible, one with a hot water option. Allow the shed to dry thoroughly, then apply a disinfectant and hydrated lime to walls and floor.

3. Alter calving gates

If calving gates need altering or replacing, this should be done as soon as possible.

Look at the position of the gate. Can the gate open forward in case a cow goes down and is there enough room behind the gate to use the calving gate without catching on the wall?

Do dividing gates need any repairs or repositioning to make it easier to move cattle in and out of pens safely if there is only one person present?

Don't forget about loose housing as well. Make any alterations to feed rails, water troughs and lights in sheds housing cows post-calving.

4. Work lights

When cows calve at night, high-quality lights are crucial, especially on those occasions when a cow needs a caesarean section.

Upgrade lights to LEDs and, if possible, install a light above the calving gate. This will give better visibility in the area where the cow stands to be calved or sectioned.

5. Water troughs

If cows are penned in calving boxes to bond with their calf for a short period after calving, make sure animals have access to ad-lib drinking water.

Cows can become dehydrated during calving. Offering a bucket of water will do little to replenish lost fluids.

A self-filling drinking bowl fitted in calving pens is highly recommended to provide adequate water supply.

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