While spring calving season is still several weeks out for a number of operations, now could be a good time to start preparing. Many are already in the habit of keeping with them some type of supply bag to be ready for new calves, and with the turning over of the year, it’s probably time to restock and consider what to have packed and ready.
Basic tools to have, already cleaned from prior use, would include taggers and, if you use one, a bander. Also include new calf-size tags, a tag marker and appropriately sized bands.
If your operation practices administering an at-birth vaccination protocol, it will also be important to stock up on properly sized needles and syringes. Remember, when it comes to needle size, select a gauge that’s appropriate for the viscosity of the products being used. Also keep in mind BQA recommendations of changing needles every time product is pulled from the bottle. Single-use, 5-milliliter syringes are ideal for administering at-birth pharmaceuticals for the fact that typically only a few calves will be tagged each day. If you are an operation where a double-digit number of calves are born each day, it would be reasonable to utilize pistol vaccine guns.
When considering what products to use in an at-birth protocol, consult with your veterinarian on what the recommendations are for the area and with your management practices in mind. Potential products your veterinarian may recommend could include a dose of vitamin A, D and E, a dose of mineral supplement and products that help prevent clostridial strains. The goal at this time is to initiate and boost an immune response in the calf.
If you are interested in collecting data in addition to birth date and gender, you may want to consider packing a weight tape or calf sling scale. Electrolytes are valuable to have in the instances when calves are found in an extremely weak and dehydrated state, and if using warm water, may help a cold calf’s body temperature normalize. If providing a calf colostrum or electrolytes via tubing, keep in mind the calf’s anatomy to ensure the tube is going down the esophagus rather than the trachea, which will result in the calf’s lung being filled with fluid.
Finally, whether using a traditional red book or a record-keeping phone app, don’t forget your record-keeping method to consistently keep records of the calving season with each day.