By Richard Randle, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension
Ideally, we would like our cows to give birth to healthy, vigorous calves with little calving difficulty and successfully re-breed. A major factor to this happening is the nutritional status of the cows at calving. Calving takes work and cows that are undernourished have a greater chance of problems such as prolonged calving, increased calving difficulty, weak calves, colostrum issues, and prolapses. Evaluating the nutritional status of your cows using Body Condition Scores (BCS) 60 to 80 days prior to the calving season provides a means to offset these problems. Cows with a BCS 5 and heifers with a BCS 6 on a 1 to 9 scale at calving are much less likely to suffer these problems and have a much greater chance of re-breeding. For more information on BCS scoring please see Body Condition Scoring Your Beef Cow Herd (http://go.unl.edu/w4ua).
Getting yourself ready for calving season starts with evaluating calving areas to make sure that all are clean, dry, strong, safe, and functioning correctly. Consider assembling an obstetrical kit with needed supplies so everything is in one place. Supplies should include disposable obstetrical sleeves, disinfectant, lubricant, obstetrical chains, and obstetrical handles.
Lastly, before calving season starts, review and develop a protocol. See Assisting the Beef Cow at Calving Time (http://go.unl.edu/qd7k) for information. You should plan what to do, when to do it, who to call for help, and how to know when you need help. Review these plans with all family members or helpers. Make sure everyone is familiar with what to expect during a normal calving and how to determine if there is a problem. Visit with your veterinarian about the protocol and incorporate his/her suggestions. Having a plan and being prepared will help make the calving season a success.