There is nothing like a healthy new born calf to make your day. However, it is important to remember there are several factors that can influence the health and vigor of new born calves. Here are some things you may want to consider.
In many areas of the Midwest, Selenium is deficient in the soil. As a result, pasture, hay, and grains that are grown from Midwestern soils will share the deficiency. As a herd manager, one option to consider is providing higher levels of Selenium in your mineral supplementation program to alleviate deficiency problems. Injectable products, such as Mu-Se, provide supplemental Selenium along with vitamin E. It is recommended that Selenium and vitamin E both be supplemented to guard against Selenium deficiency.
Body condition of cows at calving has been shown to influence several factors. First, cows in heavier body condition are better equipped to handle the nutritional demands of lactation. This results in faster breed back in the spring. Also, cows with a higher Body Condition Score (BCS) supply more IgG in their colostrum which generally leads to healthier calves and less scour issues. Take a look at your cow BCS and provide supplemental feed to bring thin cows up to more ideal scores.
Planning a calving flow chart can be very beneficial to maintaining health and performance. Many producers will have one area for close-up cows, one area for calving, and one area for lactating cows. This is a good layout until disease occurs. When a disease occurs, the remainder of cows yet to flow through the layout will be exposed to the pathogens. Thus, you may want to formulate a plan B area to allow better disease control.
Order calving season supplies ahead of time to ensure they are on site when you need them. Artificial colostrum or bagged, dry colostrum replacer is one of the supplies you will want to have. Make sure when buying colostrum replacer it is in fact a replacer and not just a supplement. The easiest way to know is the price. The replacer will be roughly 3 times the cost. Trust me it is worth the extra money. Obtaining colostrum from a cow that lost her calf or a neighboring farm can work too. Just make sure the herd is Johne's free and on a good herd health standing. Calves will need colostrum in the first 2-4 hours, thus having some on site is crucial. Don't forget OB lube, OB chains, palpation sleeves and other materials that may be needed to assist calves.
Live calves are the best calves. Being prepared for calving season could return several dollars to your operation.