Someone once said “that Success occurs when Opportunity meets with Preparation”. Planning and preparing ahead for next spring’s calving season can help increase the chances of success. There are several key preparation steps that would be good to conduct in December to insure success in February, March, and April.
Before calving season starts do a walk-through of pens, chutes, and calving stalls. Make sure that all are clean, dry, strong, safe, and functioning correctly. Check the gates and the squeeze panels to make certain that they are ready for use.
Many calving sheds are storage facilities during the off season. Do you have the extra barbed wire and steel posts, as well as grass seed and motor oil stored in the calving shed? Now would be a good time make certain that these items are placed in another facility or at least out of the way. This is a lot easier to do on a sunny afternoon than on a cold dark night when you need to have the calving area ready in a short time.
If calf diarrhea has been a significant issue in your herd in the past, now is a good time to visit with your large animal veterinarian. Ask about a scours vaccine given to the cows before calving, and about other management strategies that help reduce the pathogen exposure to baby calves when they are most vulnerable.
Larger cow calf operations may want to learn about the Sandhills Calving System. This is a calving time strategy that is meant to reduce the incidence of calf diarrhea by keeping cow/calf pairs pastured together by calving date. This system requires several pastures and weekly movement of cows that are yet to calve. The goal is to prevent newborn calves from being exposed to disease-causing organisms being shed by older calves. Several articles have been written about the Sandhills Calving System. Here is a link to one from the University of Nebraska: http://beef.unl.edu/beefreports/symp-2007-17-xx.shtml .
More information about management of cows and heifers at calving time can be found by downloading and reading the Oklahoma State University Circular E-1006 Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers.