Winter calving

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brahmergirl

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Anybody got any good guesses?  No, this isn't a trivia question or joke, I'm being flat out dead serious!  We raise brahma's and this is the first winter since we've started raising them that it has been this cold that their ears have frozen and had frost bite.  My son's first calf that we had born on our place was a beautiful heifer calf born in July.  Got up one day this week and her cute little banana peel ears were now bobbed and squared off.  Talk about sick.  And one of them is a good inch shorter than the other. 

I had someone suggest two fuzzy wool socks and sew a piece of elastic or webbing to the two of them across the poll and just slip them on but I don't know.  Any other suggestions?  They were even barned and everything and still got it!  We've had over 5 inches of ice on the ground now for approximately a month and have more coming on monday.  :p

Are they SURE the ground hog saw his shadow? 

Would appreciate any suggestions.

 

red

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Actually we had this topic under cold weather calves. Some of the suggestions were, duct tape, ear muffs for calves- Sullivan's sell them & old socks. I know exactly what your talking about, I thought my calf that was born in -5 had lost hers. we just kept rubbing them. There are a couple of threads of calving in the cold & also there is an article on the front page called baby it's cold outside.
good luck!

Red (cow)
 

red

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here is part of the previous thread:

Ears - the only frost bit ears I ever had were in March - I have tried a variety of things but the thing that seems to work the best is this funky thing I got from REI (actually for myself -the sacrifices we make) - it is a nyalon tube about 15 or 18 inches long that can be twisted and tied in a variety of ways when backpacking or doing outside things - they are French and I can't remember the name - slide one over the calves head, with the ears pinned to the head and voila - nice warm ears. I think the trick is keeping them next to the head - I tried the stocking bit but I dont wear them and having friends donate them seemed a little tacky, plus they didn't really work that well and the calf looked like a bank robber! I know people that just duck tape them to the head  - I can't do that 

 

genes

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If we found them already cold and wet when the calf was new, we would take a hair dryer to them for a bit.  Then, for them to stay warm when the weather doesn't, keeping them close to the head will help.  That is what the suggestion above is about.  Some people just use duct tape.  Putting old socks under the duct tape might work too (less sticky to the head).
 

DL

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Basically the ears need to be kept next to the head to stay warm - the old cowboys ( and deep  ;D) use the duct tape method - I could never quite get into that! Some people use stockings (ie nylon - like I have any around  ;D ;D) and slide it over the calves head leave the nose and mouth out (they look like band robbers!) - and pull ove the eyes . I never found those to handy. I did discover these things called "Buffs" from France and sold by one of the camping stores - REI I think, but maybe not - they are like 18 inch nylon tubes that I wear - you can tie them into hats, all sorts of funky things wear as a turtle neck - they pull right over the calves head and keep those big floppy ears in place - worked great for me this year (and it was evil cold) ....they could work well with your long floppy Brahmer ears!  (cow) (cow) DL
 

red

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Since it's that time of year when many of us start calving I thought it would be good to have some tips or suggestions.

1. have a calf coat or blankets available
when we claved last year & it was -5 we used calf coats. I think DL has some really good tips on where to get them at. We just got some from a local dairyman.
2. protect ears from frostbite
We also lost some ears last time during the same -5 weather. Whether you use duct tape or ear wraps you need to keep the ears from freezing
3. have fresh unfrozen water for the cows
4. have colostrum avaiable in case
5. a blow dryer works great in an emergency
6. a warming crate for cold calves in case
CAB had some plans for one. Maybe he can share them again or anyone else w/ ideas
7. be prepared for anything!!!

Please add any good tips or ideas!!

Red
 

Cowboy

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Good day all -- ahhh -- the joys of calving time!!! I look forward to this every year -- but we are still 3 months from there.

So what do we do before the need??

To add to Red's great comments -- I feel compelled to add this one topic -- VACCINE

To fully protect the calf, the cow must have good colostrum and plenty of it. In order to get that good colostrum they need our help some times.

As Knabe said about my upcoming event -- I like to "Pay it forward" by helping the cow help the calf. This is not too hard to make sure of either.

On hfrs -- we give two rounds of Scourgaurd 3K-C -- this has clostridiums in it as well -- given at 6 weeks and 2 weeks prior to calvinh thier first baby. Also -- they will get a dose of Vision 7 or 8 -- or any other GOOD clostridial vaccine -- this is given sub-Q behind the front leg (No lumps on those good show hfrs I might add)

The cows get a single dose of both vaccines 2-3 weeks prior to thier calves!

When the calf hits the ground, and I preffer BEFORE they nurse, I give the calf a dose of Alpha-7 (New born version of clostridial vaccine)

This will tremendously help you with two things -- First -- scours of course. But secondly and more importantly I think -- is the chance of getting C-D infection and losing a calf for no apparent reason -- bang thiey are dead. This gives them a good solid 30 days of worry free life to grow and get going!

For what it is worth, I have not had a single case of scours -OR- C-D for over 15 years -- "IF" I follow my own rules. I scewed up on one calf last year -- I ran out of Alpha 7 before she was born -- and to make my point -- I had to treat that baby 4 times for C-D, we saved her -- but it was tuff. So, believe me, I will never run out again!

Good luck to all this season, it is fun isn't it?

PS -- It is of my opinion that a HUGE percentage of common scours are caused by the Clostrdiial pathogens that prevent the gut from working correctly in these new babies! Kill the bug, cure the scours more times than not!

 

dori36

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I'm getting a kick out of this thread as most, obviously, have so few cows/calves that they can actually put coats on them!!  Actually, so did I but never really had any of 'em calve in the dead of winter.  So, how about this:  the ranch I lived on/worked on in  Wyoming starts calving Feb 1.  They calve 1000 mother cows in about a 2.5 month period with 85% of them calving by the end of Feb.  I've seen 50 calves dropped in the yard in one night on a regular basis.  Just no way to put coats on them!  This is in Wyoming where, if you don't get to them, and they haven't made it to the rolled out straw (no way to calve indoors with all those cows), the calves will freeze to the ground!

The rancher rolls out 2000 pound rounds of straw all around the corral area as calving starts.  All the cows are on the meadows and all are checked every day by 4 wheeler.  Those that are getting heavy are brought into the corral and calf checks are every 2 hours around the clock until the brunt of the cows have calved.  If there is room after they calve, they are brought into the barn where they are in a big open, strawed down area.  After a couple of days inside, the calf is tagged, dehorned (paste) if it has horn buds, and kicked out with its dam.  Sometime the barn gets WAY too full and it's quite 'exciting' to get in there, find calves to drag and tag and get them out with the right mom!

The cows all get scourguard a couple of weeks before calving but the calves don't get anything at birth unless their dams won't feed them.  There always seem to be a couple that do go to the warming box or into the house basement!  I've seen ears, tails, and feet frozen off.  Most survive long enough to get to market anyway.  And, there are always a few orphan calves and cows who lose calves so someone is always trying to graft calves at one time or another.  That's a whole 'nother interesting process when you do it the old fashioned way:  skin the cow's own  dead calf, tie the fresh hide on the orphan calf, put it with the cow whose calf's hide is tied on the orphan, and hope for the best!  Amazingly, it usually works!  Sometime calves are being pulled, sometime there's a c-section.  There are maternity pens around the edges of the barn in case something needs hands-on help.  Of course, I've also seen calves pulled out in the meadows when they hid when we were checking them because they were calving - or trying to. 

I remember the rancher roping one from the ground, tying her off to a tree (probably the only tree out there!), and pulling the calf.  Never a dull moment and a fantastic learning opportunity!

In spite of all the exhausting work, this particular ranch usually averages about a 98% calving success rate!

The mantra I learned there was:  for healthy, vigourous calves, they can be cold or they can be wet, but they can't be cold AND wet! 

This is what I consider a commercial operation in a pretty big way.
 

common sense

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Dori: Yeah there is a rather huge line between calving 1000 head versus 100 head.  You just have to do the best that you can with the situation that you have.  It sounds to me like the care for those 1000 head is incredible and far above the average for most people who run those numbers.  As with any business I imagine finding the kind of help that you can really rely on in that situation is probably very difficult. That mantra is the truth. Cold and wet is the worst combination!  I guess with a smaller herd you have to do everything you can to keep ears and tails intact. Losing one calf or one set of ears makes that break-even margin start to shake. 

So, here's my calving prep question...  I have used OB chains and OB nylon straps.  My vet hates the straps. He says that they slip off too easily or don't release as easily.  I have never had any problem keeping the strap in place and I think it's easier to get on.  I hate that the chains get crusty in that the finish begins to wear off.  I think that the strap could harbor bacteria even though I soak them in antibacterial soap and keep them dry and clean.  Does anyone else have any pearls of wisdom on this.  I actually arm my OB toolbox with both but I will usually pull out the strap.

 

drl

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We have both chains and straps as well. I like the idea of the straps since I hate how after you have a hard pull the calf has a hard time standing on those legs you pulled on. I think the straps will have less pressure points than the chains. Unless of course you have learned to double hitch the chains above and below the joint in order to get pull in both spots. That is rather difficult but I like that better when you have to pull those heatwaves.

When you guys pull a calf, do you try to have the cow lying down and how do you get her to lay down on her left or right side?
 

dori36

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drl said:
We have both chains and straps as well. I like the idea of the straps since I hate how after you have a hard pull the calf has a hard time standing on those legs you pulled on. I think the straps will have less pressure points than the chains. Unless of course you have learned to double hitch the chains above and below the joint in order to get pull in both spots. That is rather difficult but I like that better when you have to pull those heatwaves.

When you guys pull a calf, do you try to have the cow lying down and how do you get her to lay down on her left or right side?


Well, again, this is from the ranch.  I've only had one Lowline that needed a pull so don't consider myself a stand-alone expert here.  If a pull is needed, I don't think there's a lot of time to "plan" how to lay the cow down, or not, or on which side, or .....?  You pretty much pull from wherever she is when she needs the help.  It's kind of nice to get her in an alley or maternity stall for everyone's safety, but that's not always possible if it's an emergency assist. The one I talked about above was pulled with the cow standing.  I've also seen plenty (most) lying down either sternal or on their sides.  No particular side.  I've only seen the chains used and they're attached above the pastern if possible.  I did help with a calf pull when the calf was already dead and had probably been so for a couple of days.  Couldn't get the chains above the pasterns - too slimey - and the hooves popped right off the feet with a loud "pop".  They were decomposing. Ugh!
 

tackes

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Dori,
I was just about to comment that the last place my husband worked, we had calves in the kitchen! Now keep in mind this is a small organic dairy farm and not a beef farm, but still a calf in the kitchen is quite different  (lol) We had a couple of calves in the basement, although the one I distinctly remember lived til about 4 am and I was the one that found it. Calving time was always hard on my husband and me as we became way too attached to them. 

The calf jackets work nice if they fit properly. We had a hard time with that.

I want to wish everyone who is getting ready to start the calving season the best of luck and a bountiful herd with excellent health!
 

char

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ohio
heck last year we were at a show in Xenia and our partner stayed behind cuz we had a cow do calve and ended up being a c-section...the calf lived in my kitchen for the weekend...sunday they finally moved him out....cuz he was in the living room waking them up...he got up on his own and was wanting some attention.....gotta love that....guess what they did clean the kitchen floor before we got home...they sure were lucky ....lol ;D

char
 

fluffer

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Springfield, Ohio
maine12 said:
how and where do you hook guys hook up your chains or straps

I try to get the chains or straps above the dew claws and up on the cannon bone, then once the calf is out a little, if I have time, I either slide the chains above its knees or put them above the knee and then twist them just above the dew claw.  I try and never put the chains on below that ankle joint or on the pasterns.  That is way too much pressure on the calfs legs.  I also usually slide a hand on up in to make sure there are 2 front legs and a head, or just 2 back legs.  In the case of twins, you may think you are pulling 1 calf but turns out you have ahold of 2 different calves legs.  Plus if I can't see the head, I try to make sure it is there too.  I tell ya, just when you think you have seen it all, you will see somethig you didn't think possible.

I had a calf a few years ago that lost a hoof after she had been born in -20 weather.  We ended up losing her too.  She was an ET calf to make matters worse.  We found her quick, it was just too cold.
 

showsteerdlux

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We had our first calf of the winter come yesterday. A nice spunky heifer that popped right out without any assistance, got up and started nursing. Loved the temp. that mom had it in to. Nice 45 degrees.
 

justintime

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I have only used the chains for calving as I think they are superior to the nylon straps. As fpr the chains losing their finish, that is when you pick up a new set in town. They aren't that expensive. I always pull with the first  loop of the chain above the dewclaws about the joint and another loop below.

The threads about calving in Wyoming reminded me of a Wyoming rancher I sold a set of bull to, a few years ago. His idea of checking cows during calving was to fly his airplane over the first calf heifers every two days and the main cow herd once a week. If it looked like there were too many deads they then saddled up the horses and rode the pastures. To this rancher, calving ease and birth weight were the main issues in selecting herd sires. He probably selected his bulls out of the pen almost in opposite order to all my other bull customers. Every cattle operation is different and each person has to be smart enough to select the management that is best for their situation.

Here at our place, we normally try to AI breed as many as possible, while the cows are close to the yard, then sort them and turn the bulls out. Four years ago, we implanted 23 recips with embryos, synchronized 30 heifers and AI bred them and turned out 6 herd bulls all in one week. The next spring we had over 80 head close to calving with really no idea which one would be the next to calve. As we got close to starting to calve this group, it turned very cold and a blizzard moved in. I put 28 cows and heifers in the barn and walkd through the sheds at least once every two hours. I remember one night having  9 calves born in the shed and none in the barn. Each trip to the shed resulted in picking up one or two new borns and putting them in my calving sled, and getting them into the barn. It worked well if the cow was smart enough to follow the sled, but it was a real challenge if she turned and went back to look for her calf in the shed. I never got out of my winter clothes for 48 hours and when the storm was over, we had 37 new calves born.A few ears got touched, but we saved all the calves... and I wondered if I was going to live or not.

For the past 2 years, I have split the 5 acre pasture where my cows close to calving are, into two seperate pens with an electric wire.Feed is put in whichever pen the cows aren't in that day, and I do not let them into that pen until sundown.In the past two years I have had about 90% of our calves in daylight. I still get a few at night but if there are no signs of anything calving at 11-11:30 at night when I make my check, I go to bed and don't check until 6 am. If something looks like it is thinking of calving at the 11 pm check, I stay up and check them at 1 am. I have found that many are just born or being born at the 6 am check. This has allowed me to get some sleep during calving time.
The cows are wintered across the road in our feedlot with access to a pasture that is a mile in length. When weather permits we feed them as far from where they are bedded as we can so that they walk several miles each day. They will walk out to the feed in the morning, then walk back to water around noon, then walk back out to the feed again and stay there until close to dark. They then walk back to the bedded area to rest for the night. If it is real warm, they will continue to walk back and forth to the feed and water through the night as well. many times I have seen them walking to and from the feed in the moonlight. When we start to get close to calving time, I walk through and sort them twice a week, and move any that are showing signs of calving into the main yard. They then are switched to a feeding program that makes them eat from say... 6 pm until 11 pm. It seems that once they are full, they will then drink some water and lay down to rest for several hours. It seems that most will rest until close to morning before they start thinking about starting the birth process.

 

ROAD WARRIOR

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The old saying - "Feed in the night to calve in the light" has worked for me for years. I seldom ever check cows in the night unless I have bought a first calf heifer in a sale somewhere and usually that is a waste of time.
 

aj

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I think the night time feeding works pretty well. Start a couple weeks early. I had a neighbor that cut water off till night and I think that helps as well. If you you get a cow that fills full of water at sundown she usually won't calve at night. Of course when a front moves through you usually drop a truck load of baby calves all at once then nothing comes for 5 days after that. Last year I lost 5 calves and two cows in 8 hours in 35 degree temp and 50 mph wind. But that was in blizzard conditions.I was tagging calves in a four wheel drive tractor. I sometimes think calving in may might be smart but then you're trying to settle cows in 100 degree heat. ;D
 
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