Taking care of animals amid calving season

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 9:41 PM CDT
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DES LACS, N.D. (KMOT) – Calving in winter can be challenging for our state’s ranchers, and weather conditions can often determine the outcome of the health of a calf.

Taking care of calves in their early years requires a significant amount of attention to ensure their well-being. Rancher, Peyton Sundsbak said calves are checked every two hours, including overnight, to make sure they are healthy.

“Most of the time, we have them all in the big group in the barn. We’ll lock the closer ones in the back part of the barn, so it stays a little warmer for them,” said Sundsbak.

James Rogers, a forage crops production specialist with the NDSU extension, says hygiene and bedding is important to keep animals disease-free.

When snow starts to melt, Rogers said keeping them out of mud is good management practice.

“Just when they’re laying in mud, we can have mud get on the utters of the cow, which then the calf is trying to nurse and nursing a dirty utter,” said Rogers.

Ranchers keep an extra eye on the heifers, who are often two years old when they begin breeding.

“They still have some growing left to do, so they’re a little bit smaller,” said Sundsbak.

Rogers said they have higher nutritional requirements versus the more mature cows who regain their strength quicker.

For immature calves, they require higher nutrition, such as high-quality hay.

“She still needs to grow. She still needs to milk that cow and she still needs to rebreed,” said Sundsbak.

Cows are tasked with reproducing every year to maintain the high economic demand.

One of the primary ways used to measure the health of a calf is through body condition. Rogers recommends a body condition score of five to six.