Top Tips for Calving

By Robert Ramsay, Senior Consultant, SAC Consulting

With most of the suckler cows in Scotland calving in the spring, now is a timely opportunity to highlight some top tips for calving which will pay dividends in the long run.

  1. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Go through your calving kit and make sure you have everything you need. Think about all the eventualities, from iodine for navels, new calving ropes, lubricant, antibiotic, anti-inflammatories…the list goes on. A couple of hours spent sorting things out now will be greatly appreciated when you are in the thick of it.
  2. Consider investing in a calving camera. With less labour available on farms, many farmers have invested in a simple Wi-Fi or 4G calving camera which means that cows can be monitored remotely. This technology is well proven and is easily installed. A calving camera can be picked up for just a few hundred pounds and will pay for itself in its first year.
  3.  Colostrum is vital. Calves need colostrum as soon as possible after birth. While most calves born naturally will get up and suckle, those born with assistance or via a difficult calving are far less likely to consume adequate colostrum in the first few hours of life. It is worth considering tube feeding all calves born with assistance with 3 litres of its dam’s colostrum immediately after birth. Although easy to use, powdered colostrum contains fewer antibodies than fresh colostrum and should only really be used as a last resort. Taking time to draw colostrum off the cow is always the best option, provided you can do so safely.
  4. Keep a record of your losses. Even the most optimistic farmer knows that there are likely to be losses. Recording losses allows you to highlight issues and have good discussions with your vet, how many cows aborted, how many stillbirths, how many neonatal losses did you have? Vital information which can be used to save calves in the future.
  5. Take care of yourself. As an industry, we have an unacceptable record when it comes to health and safety, with calving cows often highlighted as a particularly risky task. While we strive to save as many calves as we can, no calf’s life is worth more than yours. Don’t take unnecessary risks. 

This article was funded by the Scottish Government as part of Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service and was first published in the Farming Scotland Magazine in March 2020.