Try these cold-weather calving tactics

Midland, S.D., rancher TJ Gabriel is gearing up for the calving season. As part of the preparation, he’s making sure he has a few key supplies on hand, including duct tape.

Gabriel operates Deep Creek Angus Ranch with his wife, Jeanine, and their young family. He will calve 130 registered Angus cows, 30 of which are first-calf heifers. 

The cows will start calving about Feb. 1. About Jan. 1, he began supplementing them with 20% cake and grass-alfalfa hay to provide them with extra protein and energy as they moved toward lactation.

Key Points

Special products, practices up cold-weather calving success.

Powder causes cows to lick calves more vigorously.

Vitamin B shot boosts immunity levels in calves.

Getting them to thrive

Because he calves in winter, Gabriel employs several tactics to combat the cold. Here are his tips to help calves thrive in harsh conditions.

Get calves up and going. Gabriel likes to sprinkle O-NO-MORE powder on each newborn calf. The specially formulated product helps ensure that cows claim their calf.

“It helps make the cows a little more aggressive when licking calves off and getting calves up to nurse … the faster that calf gets up the better,” says Gabriel.

Use vitamins and iodine. Gabriel gives every calf born a Vitamin B complex shot to boost its immune system and get its growth off to a good start.

He also puts iodine on each calf’s navel.

Protect calves’ ears. Since temperatures can sometimes be minus 40 degrees F while he is calving, Gabriel will refrain from tagging newborn calves for about a week, as the ear can freeze around the fresh tag hole. Because he sells seedstock bulls and females, Gabriel wants to avoid frozen ears as much as possible.

In extreme cold, he will use duct tape to tape a calf’s ear tips back against its neck to prevent the tips from freezing.

Keep pens clean. To keep calving pens in the barn sanitized, Gabriel will put lime down each time he cleans them. He also keeps barn stalls and calving pens clean and freshly bedded.

Use straps rather than chains. When he has to pull a calf, Gabriel prefers nylon straps over calf chains.

“Chains can injure calves’ legs. Straps are a lot more calf-friendly,” he says.

Gordon writes from Whitewood, S.D.

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COLD CALVER: TJ Gabriel uses special products and practices to improve winter calving success.

This article published in the January, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.