Minerals and OB chains
March 3, 2017
Calving season is rapidly approaching. Many producers have started with their heifers and some purebred breeders are almost finished. The weather has been exceptional so far except for a few snow days. Hopefully the great weather will continue and we will have a good calving season. While we are busy calving, we should be planning for turnout and rebreeding our cows.
This winter has been relatively mild and hay has been inexpensive compared to other years. This should equate to our mama cows being in excellent body condition. We are seeing some calves come into the livestock market in very light body condition. If these calves were still on the cows, I am sure the cows are thin also. The body condition of the cow affects not only colostrum quality but also cow stamina needed for birthing and managing the mud this spring, and calf vigor. The most important impact of adequate condition is the amount of time needed to begin recycling after calving. It is very important that your cows cycle early and calve in the in the first 21 days or your first calving interval. These calves are heavier at weaning and generate more dollars at sale time.
It appears we will need to be very efficient and pay attention to detail if we hope our cow calf operation will be profitable next year. If you have your cows at a minimum of 5.5 and your heifers at a minimum of 6, they should breed back quickly optimizing conception rates and producing heavier calves.
Mineral supplementation should not be overlooked during gestation and rebreeding. We need to offer or force feed mineral 60-90 days before calving to assure adequate colostrum quality. As the calf matures in utero, they need minerals for development and physiological body reactions. One very important factor is excess trace mineral is stored in the calf. These are used rapidly after the calf is born and milk is a poor source of trace minerals. Many producers have achieved good results with injectable trace minerals. They can be administered to the cow before birthing and the calf after birth. With minerals, you usually get what you pay for. More inexpensive minerals may not contain as many vitamins or trace minerals and may be less bioavailable. If they aren't absorbed, they will not be fully utilized and thereby never elicit their full benefit.
Be prepared for those calves. Most of our clients have calving pens with a good head gate. This makes it a lot easier to handle the animal and if you need to allow the cow to lay down, the side gates swing away. This is also a nice feature if you need to help a young calf mother up. It is very important to keep your calving area clean and disinfected. Many times, we trace calf scours to a common point in the calf movement system. That means later in the calving season, every calf which comes through the calving pen or barn develops scours or navel infection. If possible, avoid concentration points where all calves are exposed to pathogens. It is best to segregate by age and keep the groups separate for at least 30 days. Don't forget to dip or spray those navels as soon as possible after birth. We prefer strong iodine or a chlorhexadine solution specially made for navels. They both work well, but the chlorhex product won't stain your hands. The OB chains are still hanging on the nail near the calving pen and the fetal extractor (calf puller) is propped in the corner. Make sure they are clean and in good working order.
Hopefully your preparation and attention to detail will make this a trouble free calving season. Consult with your nutritionalist, veterinarian, or extension specialist to assure you place your cows on a path for optimum rebreeding. This will assure you maintain good efficiency and hopefully remain profitable in future years.