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March can be an extremely busy time for farmers who are in calving season, therefore it is important for farmers to take advantage of having more time in the run up to the Spring and get organised for the burst of activity that comes with calving season.
Below are a few essential items and things to do that can really help prepare you for the heavy workload that comes with Springtime on dairy farms.
Clean Calving Facilities
There is no substitute for good hygiene in calving sheds. Pens should be cleaned and disinfected prior to the start of calving. Make sure to use plenty of straw in calving pens to keep young or new-born calves warm.
Remember that an adequately bedded pen is one in which you can kneel down without your knees getting wet and that it should also be draught free - get down to calf-level to check it out.
Once calved, cows should be moved to loose pens as quickly as possible to prevent animals from soiling pens excessively and possibly shedding diseases.
Prevention is always better than a cure and while the above hygiene checks will reduce the disease risk, it’s even more effective combined with vaccinations for scour.
This can be done a number of weeks pre-calving and will boost the anti-bodies which will be passed to the calf afterwards via a colostrum.
It is worthwhile clipping cows along the tail, underbelly and around the udder if needed as this will keep them cleaner in the run up to calving. The less spoiled hair on the area, the better.
Cows can lose a lot of fluid during labour, drinking up to 60 litres of fresh water in a 24-hour period. If there are no drinking troughs in the calving pens, now would be a good time to install them.
Colostrum (biestings) Management
Suckler cows should be fed 2-3 litres of colostrum within two hours of birth to maximise absorption of antibodies and increase immunity to infectious diseases.
If you are defrosting surplus colostrum, use warm water less than 50°C to thaw slowly as faster thawing at a higher temperature or using the microwave will destroy the antibodies in the colostrum.
Pre-Calving Equipment Checklist
During busy periods, it is important to still remain vigilant when in the presence of calved cows as they may become anxious and even aggressive in protecting their young after calving. The HSENI advise to:
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