Today marks the first day of spring, bringing with it the promise of warmer weather, green pastures and longer days. For many producers, this season very literally brings new life to the farm. Spring is chosen by most operations for calving in order to maximize weaned calf weight at the end of the summer grass season. Likely for that reason, over 73% of calves were born during the first six months of 2019.
Calving and caring for newborn livestock are not easy tasks. The health of both the dam and calf are very vulnerable during labor. The calf remains especially prone to disease and injury until weaning, six to seven months after birth.
The three leading causes of calf death in 2015, according to the USDA, were respiratory problems, calving-related problems and weather exposure. That’s why, to limit calf deaths, you must mitigate the factors that contribute to disease, birthing and environmental risks.
Calves are especially susceptible to disease during their first six months. This is a problem not only for your young livestock but also your herd at large. Infected calves can expose the rest of your livestock to an illness, increasing the risk of infectious disease transmission throughout your entire operation.
Three diseases to keep an eye out for among your calves are septicemia, diarrhea and pneumonia. Watch for the trademark symptoms of each and take steps to eliminate the causes of these diseases.
A calf’s entrance into the world can impact the rest of its life. Before calving, familiarize yourself with the birthing process and keep an eye out for complications but avoid intervention unless absolutely necessary. Many important biological events occur during birth and pushing or pulling to speed up the process can disrupt crucial developments.
Stillbirth, or calf death within 24 to 48 hours after delivery, is one of the largest risks associated with birthing. In recent years, stillbirth rates have ranged from 4.3% to 10.3% and, in most of these cases, dystocia is to blame. Familiarizing yourself and your employees with the process, or having a vet on hand during the labor, can significantly increase survival rate.
Spring is often a volatile season. The weather can turn from sunny to snowy in a matter of hours. Calving in early spring increases the potential for exposure to low temperatures that can cause frostbite and hypothermia in calves. Once grown, cattle can withstand almost any kind of weather, but protecting calves from the cold is vital during the first six months of life. Utilize calf blankets, increase nutrition and provide lots of clean and dry bedding during any cold spell.
The unfortunate reality is, even the most seasoned producers are affected by calf loss. Protect your operation this spring with a James Allen Insurance policy through our American Live Stock Cattle Program.