Tag Archives: calf

When to Calve

To all there is an appointed time, even a time for every purpose under the heavens: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pull up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to let wander away; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew together; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (Hebraic Roots Bible)

For the past several years, my cows have been bred to calve 15 April to 30 May. Though that is earlier than i prefer, it was a decision i made some 8 years ago because i was having up to 30% death loss in baby calves getting scours. Scours so bad that sometimes the calves would die before they even passed that first scouring poop! That was calving 15 May to 30 June. So after a great deal of research into the possibilities, i made the decision to push it back. And that made all the difference – not one single case of scours since that time.

Now, i did sell those cows which lost their calves, so that is likely a good part in the reason there are no longer any cases of scours, yet it’s not the full explanation. Corriente cows tend to have rich milk, which, combined with the heat caused by grazing toxic fescue and the outside air temperature may cause additional stress on baby calves.

However, today’s weather is a reminder of why April is too early in north central Missouri to start the calving. Although my calving season officially starts 15 April, there have already been 6 calves born – fortunately, the weather has been decent until today and it is pouring down cold rain, muddy conditions, temperature at 46F (wind chill 40F) and a stiff 14 mph NNW winter type wind. Very hard are on young and newborn calves.

So, yesterday, after hearing once again from Jaime Elizondo (others have advised as well and i know better), i plan to wait to turn in the bulls 23 July for 45 days. It is with trepidation that i make this change when, despite crappy April weather these past several years, i’ve not lost any baby calves.

Here is to change once again. On the other end of it, it’s always a problem to wean calves the first week of March when grass is yet so far away and there is bitter weather ahead of them. Calving later will allow me to wait another 2-3 weeks before weaning the following year and the cows will have better weather in which to regain good condition. However, leaving the bulls in a couple more weeks is the only way to avoid me being in ragweed season to remove them. (many of my decisions revolve around ragweed season due to me being incapacitated during that time)

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

This is a calf born several years ago which i lost to scours – you can clearly see it is not feeling well. Born later in the spring.
Calves born earlier – before the onset of toxic endophyte fescue – thrived! This Longhorn cow had a dandy heifer calf.
Never plan to have cows calving in the winter! This was a purchased cow which the seller assured me they were spring calvers – he lied.

Monday Big Adventures

Once the sheep were taken to their roadbank grazing spot, it was time to check the cows.  Last night, there was a heifer starting to calve, but it was getting dark, so I left.  Unfortunately, today was an unhappy discovery for her.  The black Corriente heifer was still alive and sitting up, but no calf.  She actually let me approach her in the pasture to check her from behind, but I didn’t even need to go inside – there was about an inch of calf tail sticking out.  Of all the ways a cow can deliver a calf – tail first (breech) is NOT one of them.

Dallas and I easily walked her the 1/4 mile to the corral, after which Dallas roped her and I tied her.  Thankfully, she is a very docile young cow although she was not feeling well at all.  Off came the gloves and coat and with sleeves shoved up, I gently inserted my hand into her birth canal.  She was very tight, no doubt her body was already shutting down and there was very little dilation at this point.  So I just kept working in until I could start identifying body parts.  Sure enough, just past the tail and butt, there were both hocks.  Though she was pushing with all her might, I had to push back harder and get that dead calf back into the womb where there would be enough room to pull the hooves up and out.  This was especially challenging, because not only was she pushing, but she is a small frame, first calf heifer.  Thankfully, the calf was very small.  However, it still took over 20 minutes before I had the hooves out far enough to get the OB chains properly wrapped about the fetlocks.

My hand and forearm was pretty tired by this time, so Dallas took over on pulling the calf out.  With a bit of instruction, he did a good job.  The calf was dry, so this is a hard pull and we only had the OB chain and handles – no mechanical calf puller.  We’d pull hard when the cow pushed, rested when she rested, and made decent progress until the shoulders and head.  We had to get more leverage!

Dallas came up with the idea of using the Gator.  Perfect!  After switching to the ball hitch, I backed up close enough to loop the OB chain over the ball.  Alas, when I moved forward, I was pulling the cow and still the calf would not dislodge from her.  I noticed that when I moved the carcass, it gave a bit, so, since Dallas was getting a bit squeamish by this point, I had him ease forward in the Gator, while I jumped up and down on the suspended dead calf.  Just what was needed – the calf popped right out- swollen head and all.

While Dallas dragged the dead calf off, I massaged the abdomen of the heifer – there is a lot of yucky stuff in her.  We rolled her over so that she would have an easier time of standing on the slight slope and left her to rest while we headed back to the other side of the farm to put the sheep in the pasture for the evening.  By the time we got back to the heifer, she was gone.  Hooray!  She had walked a half a quarter to the ditch for a drink.  Unfortunately, I did not have any antibiotics to give her and she is still hurting.  Time will tell whether or not she will live.

From the time we roped her to the time the calf was out was at least an hour.  She is one tough and well-behaved heifer – I cannot image the pain she endured so stoically, but at least now she has a chance of surviving.

Now, with hands and arms covered with blood, feces, and dead calf slime, I’m starting to stink.  Looking forward to washing coat, clothes, gloves and scrubbing in the shower.  However, the dead calf smell won’t come off until it wears off.