Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Surge in Calving, Yet Again

How can a surge in calving be a surprise? The cows have been pregnant for nine months!

A client experienced a challenging situation with the youngest calves in his operation. Lots of scouring among very young calves, some bloating and a few calves died. Their calving rate during July was much higher than the average. They usually have five or six new heifer calves a week.

Surprise, the heifer calves just started coming around the first of July and they didn't stop. Ten one week, eight the next week, ten the next week, agggggggh! What we would give for a bull calf! What felt like non-stop calving, milking colostrum, feeding colostrum, trying to find space for yet another calf.

What happens on your dairy when this happens? Are enough persons cross-trained for these tasks of calving, dipping navels, milking colostrum, feeding colostrum, storing extra colostrum, mixing up colostrum replacer as needed, keeping all equipment for colostrum and milk feeding using the effective cleaning protocols, and on and on? Are there enough hands to do all the jobs at the right time the right way all the time? 

Or, because of the surge of work do folks have to cut corners just to get through the day? Is colostrum fed later than it should be? Do calves receive all their colostrum or "just enough?" Do we skip checking colostrum for quality? Does equipment get "rinsed" rather than cleaned thoroughly? Is a newborn calf left too long in a calving pen? Are we housing newborns in pens that have not been either cleaned or received fresh bedding? Too much to do with too little time to do it?

Surges in calving do not have to be a secret - the cows have been pregnant for nine months. We can prepare for them. You might want to read this issue of Calving Ease that planning works better than muddling through - click here.

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