Each year, as Winter defiantly gives way to the sometimes temperamental season of Spring, we share in the joys and sometimes agonies of Spring Calving. Mother Nature seemingly attempts to synchronize calving with approaching storm fronts, causing cows to try to calve ahead of impending ice storms, blizzards or other bad weather events. Sometimes the cows are successful and are able to calve prior to the onset of a big storm. Other times, it seems that your cow has chosen the absolute worst time to try to calve, putting both the cow and calf in jeopardy.
Successful calving is dependent on a number of precarious factors all coming together in a short period of time. The cow needs to successfully deliver a full term calf. Once born, the cow needs to work quickly and carefully to lick her new calf clean, which also helps him to dry and stimulates him to stand and nurse. The new calf needs to dry quickly after being born or risk becoming too cold which can affect his body temperature adversely or present the risk of losing part of an ear to frostbite. The calf needs to stand and nurse to take in the all too important nutrients and antibodies in the cow's colostrum. And the cow must make sure that the calf is protected from any nearby predators who want to do harm to this incredibly vulnerable new life.
Some cows are fortunate to be able to calve with ease. Others can be quite odd or unpredictable when it comes to calving, which presents a major headache for the rancher. First calf heifers often do not understand what has just happened to them after calving and simply walk away from their newborn calf leaving it to die or to be "stolen" by another cow. Seasoned mothers who are having difficulty calving will sometimes push, then turn around and sniff the ground where their calf should be, not understanding why their baby is not here yet. Sometimes cows who give birth to twins will only claim one of their babies leaving the second baby to be raised by hand. Some cows want a baby so badly that they will try to steal a newborn calf not understanding that they will have their own calf in just a few more days. And cows who lose a calf will sometimes not be willing to claim an orphan calf.
But for all of the heart wrenching challenges to calving, maternal instincts are strong in many cows. And a good cow that can calve easily and raise a nice calf or a cow that will raise an orphan calf or nurse more than one calf is usually worth her weight in gold. As is a heifer who has her first baby without intervention and immediately begins to clean and nurture the calf as Mother Nature intended.
As strong as their instincts can be, it is still important for us to check our cow herds and check them often. Veterinarians will tell you that one of the biggest challenges that they see during calving season is that clients wait too long to call them, which not only jeopardizes the calf but also the cow. Another reason to check cows frequently is that predators are all around - we have seen two different cows and one calf that had their faces slashed by a big cat (mountain lion/cougar) and we have also heard from others that have fought off nightly attacks by coyotes on their calves.
Ideally our cows will be brought into a barn or calving shed a few days prior to calving. This helps to protect both mother and calf from the elements and from predators. Once the calf has arrived, a few days in the barn together helps the pair to bond without interference from the weather, predators and other cows. Having the pair in the barn also provides us the opportunity to check on them often, making sure that the cow "cleans" properly (passes all of the afterbirth), to tag the calves and administer vaccinations and any colostrum or probiotic supplements that are necessary.
As you start your journey into the Spring Calving Season, we wish you the very best for healthy cows, healthy calves and ease of calving. And if we can be of assistance with products to help your calving season go smoothly please contact us. We will be happy to assist.
Cox Ranch Supply