Be prepared that calving can start up to two weeks prior than planned from your first initial day of joining. Heifers and cows can calve early. Heifers should be checked at least twice a day to ensure that none are having any difficulties calving. If her water has broken, but there hasn’t been any progress within a couple of hours, intervention is most likely required.

– Watch for signs that heifers or cows are getting close to calving – you will gradually see udder development (making a bag), and the relaxation/swelling of the vulva (‘springing’). The immediate sign that occurs within 24hrs of calving is relaxation of the pelvic ligaments – seen only in thin to moderate body condition cows. She will also more than likely separate herself from the herd when she is ready to calve.

 – Be prepared to intervene and assist heifers calving: ensure you have ropes or chains on hand. Please contact the practice for calving difficulties; we are more than happy to help out.

– After the first calving, cows are often assumed to calve down by themselves. Cows should be joined for approximately 8-9 weeks.

Post-Calving Illnesses –

– Uterine prolapse: Following calving, cows can prolapse their uterus generally within 4-6hrs of calving. You will see ‘big buttons’ over the uterus where separation from maternal and fetal membranes has occurred. This can happen in older cows or any cow/heifer that had an assisted calving with traction. If this happens to any of your cows, please contact us at the Practice.

– Maternal Obstetric Paralysis (Calving Paralysis): calving paralysis arises mainly from a prolonged or tough calving where the calf and pelvis of the cow were in disproportion and a nerve has been damaged in the process of the calving. The cow will have difficulty rising if she’s down, and if standing may do the ‘splits’, knuckle fetlocks and not be able to turn in back legs. Recovery for this requires a lot of nursing and anti-inflammatories.

– Retained placenta: Cows should expel the rest of the placenta after a calving within a few hours. If you notice that the membranes are still hanging out about 12 hours later, please contact the clinic for instructions. Do not attempt to manually try and pull them out – there are risks of pulling too hard and creating a rupture.

Calves –

– Good quality colostrum very soon after birth gets all calves off to a great start! An adequate amount of colostrum has many benefits – including less scours and chance of other disease, reduced mortality, improved growth rates and milk production long term. Colostrum provides the antibodies that form the main protection from infectious diseases in the first 6-12 weeks of life until the calf can develop antibodies on its own. Colostrum is at its strongest concentration and highest quality at the point of calving. It is essential the calf gets colostrum ideally in the first 6-12hrs. The recommendation for a 40kg calf is 4-5L of colostrum in the first 12 hours.

– Calves should be mustered at an earlier age (e.g. 6-8 weeks) for marking. This muster can be utilised for a number of procedures –

  • All calves should be identified with a permanent NLIS and/or farm tag
  • 5in1, 7in1 or 8in1 Vaccination
    • 5in1 vaccination protects against 5 main clostridial diseases. Many of these diseases are fatal .
    • 8in1 vaccination protects against 8 clostridial diseases. Many of these diseases are fatal .
    • 7in1 vaccination protects against 5 main clostridial diseases as well as Leptospirosis. Lepto is a zoonotic disease (transferable to humans) and should be implemented into every vaccination protocol.
    • Example protocols – 6-8 weeks, 12 wks, 12mths then annually following this OR at marking, weaning, 12mths the annually.
    • Please contact the Practice for queries and/or the best vaccination protocol for your herd.
  • Bull calves not being used for breeding purposes can be castrated
  • Drench
    • What to drench with and when to drench?
    • Please see an alternate fact sheet on drenching (coming soon, in the mean time, please contact the practice for advice.)

– Weaning: This is a challenging time for calves. Their primary source of nutrition is now solids not liquids, and exposure to disease increases when they enter a new environment. There is no correct answer for the best time to wean calves. It is dependent on a number of factors. In a drought or tough season, it may be beneficial to wean calves early to have less stress on your cows. Please contact the Practice if you are unsure on the best time to wean your calves.