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Preparing for calves

Discussion in 'Birthing, Weaning, and Raising Calves' started by ReluctantFarmer, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. Dec 2, 2018
    ReluctantFarmer

    ReluctantFarmer Ridin' The Range

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    Im trying to get ready for new calves. Got three cows and two heifers that *should* all be due in January and February based on vets predictions. I’ve been reading up on this forum looking for advice. I’ll tell you what I’ve got going on, please tell me what I’m doing wrong ;-)

    All the cattle (9 + 2 calves) are on about 4 acres of good grass field (didn’t get hayed so plenty of green still). Upper half is dry, a creek runs across bottom half, so they have access to water. I’ve put loose mineral out in a bunk on the top half. I’ve got them in the small pasture so I can keep an eye on them as we get closer to time. However, this pasture is a bit up from the barn, where I have the cow lot, corral, head gate, and a small manger (it will only fit 1 cow + 1 calf tops). The cow lot is pretty bare, there is some grass, but not much, I’d have to feed hay if anything was in there for more than a day.

    My first question: is a field, or cow lot better for birthing? What about if things go south? There isn’t any sort of catch gate or corral in the pasture and, while these cows like a feed bucket well enough, I can’t really get close enough to touch them unless they are distracted with food. Also, I’m not too keen on having to carry a calf across the creek in the cold winter if I do have to take it up to the manger for care.

    (Side story, I still remember one winter when my parents had a newborn calf in their bathroom to try to coax life back into it. It was born on a COLD day, and mama hadn’t cleaned it up good. My Dad found it half froze and carried it to the house. My Mom and I spent about 4 hours in shifts, rubbing it down hard with towels and not letting it go to sleep. When we finally got that little bugger warmed up, it was like a firecracker went off. It jumped up and started bucking and bawling and crap was going everywhere, literally! If I have to do that again, I’d like to do it in the manger, so I don’t have to clean green chunks off my toothbrush.)

    Second question: I’ve read I need iodine and colostrum. Any other have-to-haves? I will have the vet out ASAP to do anything else like vaccines. I plan on having some heat lamps, ~10 square bales of hay and some cubes in the manger area, in case any of them need special attention.

    Third question: on the heifers, given my lack of experience at the business end of the birthing process, most people say to sell them. I did some rough calculations and I should have enough to feed them, so my crazy pea brain is leaning toward trying to keep them (every cow started out as a heifer right?). Is there anything special I should do to prepare for their delivery? Equipment, etc?

    Thanks In advance for any advice and I’ll keep y’all posted :)
     
  2. Dec 3, 2018
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    For the heifers? Get up to the barn & lot when they get close even if it means having to feed them hay and some kind of feed every day. Don't over do the feed.
    On hand:
    OB chains.
    OB lube.
    Towels and CLEAN rags..lots and lots of them.
    Clean water.
    OB gloves, several pair if that's your thing....I don't always wear them any more.
    Ropes to confine the momma.
    Preferrably, Someone that's done it before or at least a helper.
    Iodine.
    Vets ph # and a checkbook and I hope you won't need either.
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=calf+puller+how+to+use
    There's a bunch of birthing videos you can watch. Watch them all till you can do it in the dark.
    Not a very good one as it doesn't tell you how to attach the chains and I don't like to just "latch on' and start jacking..I try to time the ratcheting with the cow pushing.


    Next is a backwards presentation--coming ass first. You can pull them the same way. (this is NOT a breech)
    This vet is using straps which is fine too. Notice they start ratcheting, then stop and check things...working with the momma. Looks like a Dr Franks calf jack. It's pretty popular. I have one as well.



    Watch this, then watch it again and again so you can quickly and easily connect the chains.
    If you don't have a calf jack, at least get the chains and a handle. You can use any kind of comealong if you have to but a calf jack is preferrable.

    At about the 1:08min point, and again around 2:15, this is why you need to confine the momma so she can't take off for parts unknown. IF you have the chain around the calf's pastern, with your hand still inside the loop, and momma decides to run off (it happens) she's going to be dragging you along with her. That, won't end well. Over the years, I had never really thought about that much, but it was pointed out to me not too terribly long ago. It's bad enough, that a momma might take off with a calf jack all attached to her calf's feet.....
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
    ReluctantFarmer likes this.
  3. Dec 3, 2018
    ReluctantFarmer

    ReluctantFarmer Ridin' The Range

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    Thank you so much @greybeard, I’ll start studying those tonight. Also, I seem to recall some OB chains (and maybe a calf jack) hanging on the barn wall. I just didn’t know what I was looking at before :(
     
  4. Dec 3, 2018
    Mini Horses

    Mini Horses True BYH Addict

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    Just remember -- a cow is easily 1000# plus. They are big and strong and run fast. Greybeard knows what he talks about.

    You are brave. :D Hoping for all the best when the time comes.

    For my farm, goats are smaller & tamer for me. :)
     
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  5. Dec 3, 2018
    Latestarter

    Latestarter Novice; "Practicing" Animal Husbandry Golden Herd Member

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    Wishing you nothing but success with the upcoming calving! :fl As GB stated, hope the Vet cell # and check book doesn't become a necessity.
     
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  6. Dec 4, 2018
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    Reluctant Farmer, you might want to check over at https://cattletoday.com/forum/index.php.
    Lots of cow folks there (that ALL that's there) and I know there are some from Mo and E. Okla on the board. Might be someone there that is close to you that can help some. Great bunch of experienced, helpful cattle people there, big herds and small herds but it's a little 'different' than here at BYH. Not much personal drama there, and mostly down to Earth cow talk except 2-3 sections.
    You will fit right in and have access to a lot more information.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
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  7. Dec 5, 2018 at 5:46 AM
    ReluctantFarmer

    ReluctantFarmer Ridin' The Range

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    Thanks again @greybeard, that also looks like a great site for info. I watched the videos you posted, and am going to town today to pick up all the supplies to have them on hand.
     
  8. Dec 5, 2018 at 5:52 AM
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    You will likely see some familiar names there.