Calving Tricks, Courtesy of our Readers

My Generation

Night feeding, feed on the back and O-No-Mo…lovely readers share a wealth of ideas and stuff to make calving easier.

Published on: March 2, 2011
So I was feeling a little sheepish about yesterday's blog post. I didn't mean to come off as a whiner, especially when my friend, Jennifer, pointed out that her family once calved out 350 heifers one spring. Dude. 'Cause we're not even remotely operating on that scale, and whining about being up three times in a week to pull calves rings a little hollow in comparison.

However, that little blog post brought in a wealth of suggestions. Like from cattleman Joe Webel, who suggested night feeding. He says he's been doing it for years, feeding between 3 and 5 p.m., resulting in 80-85% of the calves born between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. He wasn't the first. Jeannie Harland confirms they do it on their operation with great success, adding, "Of course we still get up and check on the heifers, but there is a huge difference between turning on the barn light, seeing them chewing their cuds, and going back to bed, and seeing one foot sticking out and going into full panic mode at 2:00 AM." That sounds really familiar.

Then Will Andras sent this email:

You are probably aware of the research that's been done, but since we've implemented it, we've seen great results. The data is something like this (I don't remember actual %'s)
If you feed your heavy preg cows at or after 3 PM, 55-60% will calve during daylight hours.
If you feed your heavy preg cows at or after 5 PM, some 75-85% will calve during daylight hours.
We have done the latter the past two years and have found it to be accurate.  We still do 2 AM checks, but return to bed with nothing to report far more often than before using this late feeding system.

And, for cows that won't claim their calves? Will also recommends "O-No-More", a powder you sprinkle on new babies born to uninterested young dams or foster dams. "It's a mineral or something that they can't resist and they start cleaning baby immediately," he adds.  

Joe threw in the feed-on-the-back-of-the-calf trick: when the heifer won't claim the calf immediately, pour feed on the calf's back. The calf has to still be good and wet. She'll start licking it up and when she gets the scent of the calf, she'll do what she's supposed to. "Pure magic," he calls it. He says he just picked this one up a couple weeks ago and has already used it twice this calving season.

Penny Bliler (helpfully) adds that if we'd just use Red Angus bulls we wouldn't have to get up and check for calving problems. I know she was kidding. And I also know my husband won't go for that. J

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  1. Penny Bliler says:

    Not kidding Holly. We don't do night time heifer checks! We pull calves less than 2% of the time. We also begin calving mid-March out on pasture, so we really live dangerously. We don't have a barn. The reason Red Angus are easy-calving is because the calves have smaller heads. You will notice that Will Andras is also calving Red Angus....he still gets up but usually goes back to bed!!! I can't believe he attributes it all to feed schedule....especially when he will be selling some really good Red Angus bulls April 2!

  2. H. Spangler says:

    Thanks for clarifying, Penny! I'm surprised Will doesn't claim a little more breeding credit, too...!

  3. M. Host says:

    Wow what detail! Thanks for the article.