The company is running a series of CalfChat events and the latest, run in conjunction with Tom Kenny of Calf Barrow, was centered around the subject of labour at calving and management of the newborn calf.

The calving period can be a stressful time, as everything must be done in a timely manner.

A key element to managing that workload is to plan for it, says Dr Christine Cummins, Bonanza Calf Nutrition.

She recommends that, when time allows, farmers should take the opportunity to assess their set-up and decide if potential changes are needed.

Small changes can result in huge savings both physically and mentally

“We may not realise it, but each calf we move by lifting, helping along or moving around puts strain on our bodies. This is particularly true in block calving systems, because of the intensity of these types of movements.’’

During the CalfChat discussion, the aspects of calving that farmers find difficult were raised, together with solutions.

Many of these solutions were a result of thinking outside the box, and of considering the current system, says Dr Cummins.

“An example is moving large numbers of calves long distances into large sheds, versus moving small numbers of calves shorter distances,’’ she says.

“These scenarios may have different ‘ideal’ moving strategies.’’

Feeding and moving newborn calves can take time and be tough on the body.

A poll run on the evening following the discussion highlighted fatigue and back strain as the two most common physical challenges.

Of the people involved in this CalfChat discussion, 40% had a calf barrow.

This simple, lasting device is designed to ease the labour involved in moving calves.

Dr Cummins says calving is a time when farmers need to take extra measures to ensure the job is as easy as possible.

“Sometimes, particularly when calves keep coming, we can forget our own wellbeing,’’ she says.

“If we can reduce the time we spend doing the repetitive tasks, such as feeding colostrum and moving calves, we can make life easier for our bodies and make it more comfortable for our calves.’’

Tips on reducing the time spent feeding calves and simplifying the job:

  • Keep stores of good-quality colostrum in a fridge and warm it when the calf is almost born.
  • Feed the calf within 30 minutes of birth - the sooner it is fed, the more eager it will be to suck.
  • Use a stomach tube – there is no difference in absorption of antibodies or performance of calves that are stomach tubed versus not stomach tubed.
  • Tips on reducing time and strain from moving newborn calves:

  • Consider your set-up.
  • Utilise any system that can minimise lifting or even pushing a calf along, such as a calf barrow.
  • For long distances, such as moving to a different yard, a trailer is a potential option.
  • Some of the people who posted on CalfChat had some excellent advice on how they had made labour savings at calving time, particularly in relation to moving calves - check out @CalfChat on Twitter to find out more.

    The next @CalfChat evening will be held at 8pm on October 29 and will focus on the development and nutrition of the calf in the first days of life.

    This is a critical period in the development of the calf and an area that, if managed correctly, can have a significant impact upon the lifetime of the animal.

    It is known that colostrum is crucial as it provides the calf with antibodies, but it is not the only pertinent element in the rearing of a calf.

    “Like with all things involving calves, everything is interlinked. With feeding calves, it is a step by step process,’’ says Dr Cummins.

    Calves need colostrum promptly to absorb the antibodies that help provide immunity to the bugs they encounter in the first weeks of life.

    It also has other components that help with the continuation of gut development.

    Cows produce transition milk for a reason, and that reason is to provide protection and to help promote gut development.

    “Although it is higher in solids, making us think of fat and protein, it is in fact the other non-nutritional factors that play a critical role for the calf,’’ says Dr Cummins.

    “Tune in to our next @CalfChat on Twitter and Facebook and take part in our polls, get involved in the discussion. It is going to be an interesting one!

    “The great thing about CalfChat is that the evenings get people sharing their ideas while experts can also weigh in.’’

    For more information on the calf barrow, which is distributed in Ireland and in the UK, visit