The Maternity Ward is Open
Feb 20, 2011
This week our farm was blessed with brand new baby calf. Nothing can get two kids out of bed bright and early on a Saturday morning then announcing we have a new addition. This year, we are only half way through the calving season and continue the process of managing the on farm maternity ward. Bringing a live calf in the world is a gamble much like bringing in a newborn child.
I personally like this time of year when the newborn calves are bouncing around. It warms the soul and makes battling the elements worth it.
At the time of breeding last year, we work hard to coordinate the calving season to our busy lives with jobs off the farm. For our small cow-calf operation, we utilize 100 percent Artificial Insemination to increase genetic diversity. This year we are calving later than expected but hope to finish by the end of March. When the blizzard hit Illinois at the end of January, I was thankful -by sure luck or perhaps a little help from the man upstairs- that we had no calves due. These days we are battling mud but appreciate a barn with many pens providing a safe haven for both cow and calf.
The gestation period of cow averages 283 days. Predicting the timing of birth is much like predicting the birth of your own child. Once the expecting cow reaches 2 weeks before her due date, she is checked for signs of calving. Our goal is to be ready if assistance is necessary.
As soon as the mother has brought the calf into the world, we spring into action and begin our normal newborn regimen. After mother has cleaned her calf, we immediately treat the umbilical cord with iodine in order to disinfect and protect in from attracting foreign bacteria. In addition, we clean and dry the calf off. Wet and cold calves are more prone to cold stress and sickness. At this point, we make sure the cow and calf is placed in their own clean and freshly bedded pen to assure the calf’s natural instinct kicks in and nurses the Colostrum milk of its mother. Colostrum contains immunoglobulin(s) that provides the first source of energy and builds the newborn’s immunity. Since it is essential for the newborn to absorb the immunoglobulin within the first 2-4 hours of life, we go on our way and give mom and calf some much needed (alone) bonding time.
Vaccination is crucial to the health of a newborn calf. Each calf receives and oral vaccination to increase its immune system and guard them from death –threatening diarrhea referred to as scours. The calf will also receive natural immunization of vitamin A,D, E and B-Complex. Each calf is weighed and properly identified with a tag and an unique identification number. All the information is recorded and documented.
Each cow and new calf is checked into a comfortable pen with a control environment of the barn enabling the pair to move around freely. Both cow and calf need healing time and lots of rest. For our operation, keeping the pair in a control environment-for several days- free from mud, extreme temperatures, and reduced exposure to dangerous bacteria is essential to the calf’s health and livelihood.
At Day Cattle Farm, every pair receives pampering. After all calves are brand new DAYs. Each cow receives room service provided with clean bedding, water, and nutrient-balanced meals of grain and forage essential for raising a healthy and strong calf. In addition cows are offered the chance for outside exercise but many will not leave the doorway afraid of leaving the calf’s side.
Here is the bonus-the love. My children will race to the barn when a newborn is present. At times that we need to separate the pair for exercising or caretaking, my kids will give the new addition a good rub down and entertaining story. In our experience, the one-on-one attention in the first few days of birth establishes a solid foundation between the animal and the caretakers.