Many fall-calving cow herds are managed to begin the calving season near the first of September. Data from Oklahoma State University research indicates that fall calving may begin even sooner than producers expect. The gestation length of cows that gestate during the hot summer months has been shown to be about 5 days shorter than counter parts that are bred to have the last trimester of pregnancy in cooler weather. (Kastner, et al. 2004 OSU Animal Science Research Report). At any time of year, calving dates will vary slightly around an average of about 283 days. Some will naturally be born earlier than the “gestation table” in handbooks would indicate. Therefore, producers with fall-calving cows should expect the first calves to arrive as much as 10 days ahead of the predicted first calving date. Consequently, the checking of first calf heifers should begin around the 20th of August if the predicted first calving date is September 1.
With the calving season so rapidly approaching now is the time to put together your “calving kit”. The “calving kit” should contain at least the following: disposable obstetrical sleeves, non- irritant antiseptic, lubricant, obstetrical chains (60 inch and/or two 30 inch chains), two obstetrical handles. Mechanical calf pullers should be close to the calving kit.. Also have a tincture of iodine solution that can be used to treat navels of newborns shortly after birth. Don’t forget the simple things like a good flashlight and extra batteries and some old towels or a roll of paper towels.
It may be helpful for you to have all these things and other items you may want to include packed into a 5 gallon bucket to make up a “calving kit” so you can grab everything at once. Place that bucket in a location that can be found and reached by everyone in the operation.
Also a laminated “calving protocol” instruction sheet could be posted in the barn or calving shed. Include on this sheet phone numbers of the local large animal veterinarian, and any neighbor or relative that is willing and able to lend a hand if extra help is needed. Before the calving season begins download and read Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-1006: Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers.