You need to observe spring calves closely and check them at least twice a day and check your first-calf heifers even more than that.

Aimee Nielson

March 19, 2021

3 Min Read
Newborn calves are a common sight this time of year in Kentucky pastures.Aimee Nielson

Driving around rural Kentucky in spring brings sights of new calves in the pastures. For cattle producers, it signals a new cycle of management on the farm. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment beef specialist Les Anderson said there’s a lot to remember to ensure healthy calves and to successfully rebreed cows. 

“You need to observe spring calves closely and check them at least twice a day and check your first-calf heifers even more than that,” he said. “Be ready to assist those heifers after one to two hours of hard labor or 90 minutes after the ‘water bag’ is visible. Be prepared to dry and warm chilled calves as soon as possible.”

Each calf should get colostrum within an hour of birth.

It’s also important to begin to identify calves with ear tags or tattoos while they are still young and easy to handle. Record the birthdate and the dam ID. Anderson said that commercial male calves need to be castrated and implanted as soon as possible and producers should weigh registered calves within the first 24 hours of birth.

“Go ahead and separate cows that have calved and increase their feed,” he said. “Supplemental energy is important for cows receiving hay to prepare them for rebreeding.”

A 1,250-pound cow giving about 25 pounds of milk per day will need about 25 pounds of fescue hay and 5 pounds of concentrate daily to maintain good condition.

“If you need to go from a condition score of 4 to 5, you will need to add an additional 2 pounds of concentrate to support that cow,” Anderson said. “Cows have to be in good condition to conceive early in the upcoming breeding season.”

Calf scours is something to keep watch for in the herd. If scours becomes a problem, producers will need to move cows that have not calved to a clean pasture.

“We’ve had a lot of rain this year, and that means a lot of mud,” Anderson said. “You need to avoid feeding hay in excessively muddy areas to avoid contaminating the cows’ udders.”

Calves with scours may become dehydrated and will need fluids to reverse the situation. Producers can consult their veterinarians and send fecal samples to the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Lab to determine the most effective drug therapy.

Producers should plan to vaccinate calves for clostridial diseases like blackleg and malignant edema as soon as possible. It’s also a good time to get yearling measurements on bulls and heifers if necessary, for special sales. Producers may need to increase bulls’ feed to increase their conditioning for breeding or order semen if they plan to use artificial insemination. Attending the April and May offerings of the Reaching Out While Locked In Beef Management Webinar Series will help producers boost their knowledge about reproductive management and risk management strategies for the rest of 2021.

All upcoming sessions are at 8 p.m. EDT and include:

  • April 6 – Playing the Long Game with Reproductive Management

  • April 10 – Risk Management Strategies for the 2021 Market

  • May 4 – Shooting the Bull: Answering all your beef-related questions, a roundtable discussion with UK beef specialists. 

To register for the webinar, email Darrh Bullock at [email protected] with “beef webinar” in the subject line and participant name and county in the body of the message. Registrants will receive a direct link with a password the morning of each meeting. 

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