Calving season will be starting soon for most cow-calf producers and has already started for some. Calving problems are something all producers hope to avoid – but unfortunately, they do happen. Having a calving kit handy will make dealing with most potential problems much easier.
Most calving problems can be avoided with proper heifer development and bull selection, but when they do occur, being prepared can help save a calf. A calving kit should include some basic tools and supplies. The list below can serve as a starting point of what to include in a calving kit.
- Fact sheet on dystocia and calf care
- Two obstetrical (OB) chains
- Two OB handles
- OB sleeves
- Exam gloves
- Some type of lubricant
- Rope halter
- Esophageal calf tube feeder
- Calf bottle
- Powdered colostrum
It is a good idea to print out a copy of a fact sheet on delivering a calf and put it with the other items so it can serve as a handy reference when needed. “Calving time management for beef cows and heifers” from Oklahoma State University is an excellent publication that provides details on when and how to assist and other useful information.
OB chains can be purchased as nickel-plated or stainless steel in 30-inch or 60-inch lengths. For many operations, two 30-inch nickel-plated chains are probably sufficient. Don’t forget the OB handles, as they provide valuable grip once the chains have been placed on the legs of the calf.
For most operations, a calf puller tool is probably not justified. If a calf puller tool is needed that often, then the process of heifer development, target age at calving and bull selection should be closely evaluated.
At times, calves may not nurse immediately. If the calf has not nursed within the first six hours, it should be given colostrum from the cow or another source. Powdered colostrum replacements vary in quality and the amount needed to provide a target level of antibodies. Given the value of a calf, quality, not cost, should be the priority when purchasing colostrum products. Products made from bovine colostrum are preferred by some over colostrum products made from blood serum. An esophageal tube feeder is a great tool to administer colostrum to weak calves or those that will not nurse a bottle. At least one company offers a bottle that has a screw-on nipple or esophageal calf tube feeder attachment.