Pre-calving nutrition was discussed first and although there is little time to rectify problems around cow body condition at this late stage, there are still things we can do to minimise issues at calving.
Providing sufficient energy to thin cows around calving time will aid the cow massively.
However, feeding thin cows to try to increase body condition score will only lead to increased calf size and, in turn, increased calving difficulties.
If cow body condition has not be managed correctly in the run-up to this year’s calving, learn from it and remember to plan out and manage cow body condition next autumn.
For spring-calving cows, getting body condition correct at calving time really starts in autumn. House cows according to body condition and feed accordingly.
Mineral supplementation to dry cows needs to be correct.
Mineral deficiencies in the run-up to calving can cause all sorts of calving difficulties; ill-thrift in calves, non-cleansing cows and cows slow to start their reproductive cycle once again.
Andrew suggested using a forage analysis to see what the base line figures are for you on your farm as a good starting point.
For example, a large proportion of Scottish soils will have high molybdenum levels, which can lead to the locking up of copper.
But different areas and farms will differ significantly so you need to know your own levels.
Powder v bolus v tubs
Anything is better than nothing. However, Andrew prefers the use of boluses, as you can be sure that all cows have received the dosage.
Whatever is being used needs to suit the farm system.
Not everyone will be able to administer a bolus to cows and therefore powders can work well in these cases.
We need to remember that an oversupply of minerals can be just as troublesome as an under-supply.
For example, oversupplying iodine pre-calving can cause calves to be born hyper-mature, restricting the amount of antibodies the calf can absorb from the cow's colostrum significantly. This is why striking the balance is key.
Sufficient calving facilities on farm are critically important for the safety of both farmer and their stock.
Investing in decent calving facilities will increase the number of live calves delivered on your farm each year.
Calving gates should be located in such a way that the cow’s left hand side is against the gate and not along the wall.
This allows easy access to the cow if your vet needs to perform a caesarean section.
Keeping calving gear close to hand and clean at all times, ready for the next use, will make things easier when you are up to calve a cow in the middle of the night.
Bedding may be running quite short on a lot of farms this year, but the calving shed is no place to skimp on bedding.
Remember, the newborn calf has no immunity until it gets its first feed of colostrum into it.
If the cow’s teats are dirty, the first thing into the calves system can be dirt.
Hygiene should always be close to mind when handling cows.
Any time you handle a cow, there is the potential of introducing dirt into the cow, which can lead to infection.
Disposable calving gowns and gloves are a great way to minimise the chance of transferring infection.