Every farmer has their own routine around calving time, from management of cows during labour to getting newborn calves up and sucking. After every calving, there are a few standard management tasks that should be carried out, some of which are outlined as follows.

1. Cleaning the jack and ropes

If calving ropes or the jack was used to deliver a calf, they should be washed and left ready for the next time they are needed.

Brush off any dirt, bedding or fluids stuck to the headstock of the jack and rinse clean. Leave the jack in an upright position in the calving shed, so water drains off.

Some farmers will spray an oil-based product that lubricates and displaces water, preventing the pivots on the headlock from rust or seizing.

Wash ropes in hot water and soak in disinfectant for 10 to 15 minutes after every use, then hang on the clean jack to dry naturally.

Do not put dirty ropes on the calf’s legs during labour, as the soiled material can be transferred inside the cow, causing infection and infertility.

2. Treating the calf’s naval

Once the umbilical cord breaks from the calf during birth, it leaves a hollow open tube running inside the animal’s body. Therefore, it is important to close up that opening as fast as possible.

Otherwise, bacteria can enter the naval as the calf lies on soiled bedding straight after birth, well before any colostrum is fed.

If spraying the naval with iodine or an anti-septic product, apply liberally on all sides shortly after birth. Repeat this task again once the calf is licked dry.

A dip cup can get iodine, or an anti-septic product, inside the naval cord to provide greater protection against infection.

Iodine will keep the naval wet. Mixing with some surgical spirt or phenol based alcohol will dry the naval much faster.

With iodine, use a product with 10% concentration for best results.

3. Colostrum

The majority of calves will stand and feed unassisted within one to two hours of being born. But if calves have not sucked the cow after two hours, colostrum should be fed manually.

Colostrum will give the calf an energy boost, helping it to its feet. But more importantly, it will get antibodies into the calf.

As the calf’s ability to absorb antibodies in colostrum starts to decline around six hours after the animal is born, early feeding is recommended.

4. Water and feed for the cow

Cows can lose a lot of fluid during labour, so providing drinking water replaces fluids and stops dehydration.

Cows that are dehydrated can be slow to let down milk for the calf to feed. Offer cows some fodder to help with rumen fill post-calving, reducing the risk of digestive problems and apply a fresh bed of straw.

5. Ear tagging

Tagging calves within 24 hours, or before cow and calf outfits move from calving boxes to larger group pens, is recommended.

Ideally, there will be access to a head locking gate to restrain the cow and safely tag calves.

Alternatively, slip the calf outside the pen, tag and return to its mother immediately.

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