Calving management

Delivery is a high-risk time for both the calf and the cow. Each needs special attention, even after a smooth delivery. If there are problems during delivery even more attentive care is needed to help the cow and calf recover. Great calving management sets the dam up for a productive lactation and successful re-breeding, and the calf can start life on the right track.

Calf welfare in the first 24 hours
Key management practices to get calves off to a healthy start.

Maternity pens
The maternity area should be in a quiet part of the barn. A maternity pen should be a minimum of 3 m x 3 m (10’x10′), and must be clean, dry, draft-free, and well lighted, insulated and ventilated. This will help with disease control, comfort and footing.

Ear tagging
Calves to be registered must have approved dairy tag sets (white) placed in both ears within 24 hours of birth. If a bull calf is leaving the farm for veal or beef, a single CCIA RFID button (yellow) is acceptable.

Navel care
Bacteria enter a calf’s circulatory system by way of the navel into the liver, and then into the bloodstream.

Newborn care – can we do better?
The first 48 hours of a calf’s life are its most hazardous. According to a leading dairy researcher, approximately 85 per cent of newborn calf mortalities happen within one hour of calving. And 66 per cent of calves that die in the perinatal period – the time immediately before or immediately after birth – were alive at the start of calving.

Ensuring survival with newborn care
While it is a relief to get a calf out after a hard calving, these calves are still highly vulnerable. Dystocia is a major risk factor for stillbirth and infectious disease in early life. Some calves born following severe dystocia can survive quite well, which can lead one to underestimate the further assistance that some other calves may require; calves that experience mild dystocia can still be affected quite negatively. There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that they not only survive, but that they thrive.

Give extra attention to calves after a difficult birth
While calving trouble, or dystocia, is generally accepted as a health challenge
for cows and heifers, many producers do not realize a difficult birth
can have negative impacts on the calf as well. Both the dam and calf may need special attention to recover from a difficult birth to get the lactation and growth phases off to a healthy start.