Calving comes with risks at the best of times, but creating the best possible calving environment is a great way of cutting them out.
Here are some tried and tested tips that apply in both the largest dairy farms and the smallest suckler herds.
Keep calving box spotless
Calving boxes should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected once the last calf is taken out to prevent the buildup of harmful diseases.
In addition, the boxes should be hosed down and disinfected during the calving season.
There is no vaccine to combat calf-prone viruses like Cryptosporidium Parvum so keeping the calving box hygienic and disinfected is key to avoid it and other diseases from building up.
Antec Oo-cide and Exespor Alcide will kill cryptosporidium spores, however these are very strong products and should be used carefully.
Calving boxes should be left clean and dry during the summer, and shouldn’t be used to store minerals that could be potentially harmful to calves.
If they are used by other stock in the meantime, it should be thoroughly cleaned, ideally with a power-washer.
Use enough straw
Use plenty of straw, especially if you’re facing cold conditions. Calves are not born with a winter hair coat so they need that extra layer to help keep them strong and healthy.
Additionally, calves need to bed down in a clean place, so refresh and add to it regularly.
Dirty bedding could lead to the calf ingesting manure and contaminated material, which in turn could lead to them getting sick.
Calves spend 80% of their time lying down.
Have a plan
A good way to cut a lot of the hassle out of calving season, especially if you have a lot of calves due, is to know clearly what you will do before the off.
A good start is half the work, if you already have a system worked out of moving them, cleaning the pens, and housing them afterwards before you begin, you’ll save calves and time.
Farming technology like cameras and the Moocall Calving Sensor can be a great addition to your plans at calving time, especially when used in tandem.
Ventilation and circulation
Ensure there is good air circulation and ventilation in your shed.
If you have both a newer shed and an older shed, put your weanlings and younger cattle in the newer shed as they tend to have better circulation.
If you have an older shed, you can take remedial action to improve ventilation and circulation.
In well-ventilated sheds, animals are shown by research to perform better, as they are less likely to develop respiratory infections or pneumonia.
Badly ventilated sheds retain too much moisture in the air. Droplets gather, and then puddles. These are the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Bacteria and viruses are killed 10 times quicker by 100% fresh air than by 50% fresh air.
Lack of fresh air increases the survival time of airborne bacteria and viruses, increases the concentration of toxic and noxious gases, and can reduce oxygen concentrations.
Another way to reduce the risk of pneumonia is letting weanlings or autumn-born calves to venture outdoors for a period.