As calving approaches, it is a great time to take stock, and look at your management over the spring calving period. Ensuring the management is tight over calving, will have a positive knock-on effect at turnout and bulling.
It’s a good time to re-assess cow condition and rations. Have you had your silage analysed? Are there any shortfalls in the ration? Do the cows require additional energy or protein supplementation pre or post calving? Do you know how much silage is left in the pit? Now is the time to check forage stocks to ensure that you have enough feed and forage to see you through the calving period. Also ensure the mineral status of the ration is appropriate. For further information on feed budgeting refer to; https://www.fas.scot/downloads/a-guide-to-feed-budgeting/
The ideal body condition score (BCS) at calving, for a spring calving suckler is 2.5. Thin cows (BCS <2) may struggle to calve, have poor colostrum and may struggle to go back in calf. There are problems at both ends of the scale, as with overfat cows (BCS >4) you add the risk of a difficult calving and the cow is more susceptible to metabolic disorders.
If cows are too lean
- Keep them on a ration to gain condition using good quality forage if possible, rather than too much concentrates
- Feed them the best forage available to appetite
- Consider the feeding system some cows may be getting bullied
- Separate lean cows in to a different pen
- Cows carrying twins – need around 20% more energy per day
If cows are too fat
- Avoid ‘starvation’ diets for over fat cows this will cause more problems at calving time with metabolic problems and poor colostrum production
- If possible, take out over fat cows for separate management – they can still lose a little weight safely up to calving time but no more than 0.5kg/day
- Speak to a nutritionist for ration advice
Always seek guidance from a nutritionist and your vet if you are concerned about cow condition.
Vaccination for Rotavirus, Coronavirus and E Coli should be routine in late pregnancy to increase antibodies in the colostrum to these common scour agents.
Don’t forget the bull
Stock bulls should be managed to ensure they are suitable for bulling at turn out. Ensure vaccinations are given in advance of the breeding season and if required, that feet are paired prior to bulling. Ensure bulls are in good condition without allowing him to get overfat.
Other key management things be to thinking about;
- Regroup cows on expected calving dates (keeping heifers in a separately managed group)
- Check calving equipment – calving jack, ropes etc. are all in good condition and ready for use
- Have you a supply of colostrum if it is needed?
- Prepare and disinfect calving pens. Better to have calving pens set up and ready than rushing during the night
- Increase bedding and frequency of bedding (if so, far bedding has been used sparingly this winter) at the start of and during calving
Sarah Balfour, firstname.lastname@example.org
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