Feb 07, 2024

As calving season gets underway for Canadian beef cattle producers, an abundance of sleepless nights can be expected to come with it. Cows will be calving around the clock, leaving little leeway if anything goes wrong. Careful planning becomes important, not only to help calves hit the ground healthy but also in benefiting producers, both physically and mentally, when dealing with the stresses of the calving season.  

Cynthia Beck, an active cattle rancher, provisionally registered psychologist in Saskatchewan and volunteer director for Sask Ag Matters Mental Health Network, says taking the time to prepare prior to the busy season is well worth it. “For many producers, myself included, we run into a tough time at calving, and I think most of us attribute the difficulty to stress and exhaustion. Yet not many producers know there are things we can do to proactively help ourselves get through calving while maintaining both our physical and our mental health,” she explains. 

Take the Time to Prepare 

Beck, along with her husband, manages a 400-head cowherd in southern Saskatchewan. Taking the time to be prepared can decrease a lot of the stress and workload of this busy season, she says. It can be as simple as taking 10-15 minutes to locate the necessary accessories needed to assist with a difficult calving, disinfecting this equipment and storing it in a central location that everyone is aware of. Test tools such as flashlights and make sure the calf puller is working correctly. 

Preparing calving sites ahead of time reduces the workload when calving starts and benefits by helping maintain cow and calf health. Given that calving facilities have not been in use over the past 9-10 months, it is recommended to check all equipment and fix any items that need repair. Calving facilities should be clean and dry with sufficient lighting.  

red newborn calf with cow on straw
Adequate wind protection should be provided along with fresh bedding, as wet, muddy conditions create a stressful environment for both the cow and calf. Likewise, pathogens, such as those responsible for scours, can accumulate in these types of conditions. Have enough bedding brought in or put up and stored in an easily accessible location. The availability of feed and bedding has been a challenge in recent years for producers in some parts of the country due to extreme weather conditions or drought. However, clean, dry bedding is an important aspect of biosecurity during calving. 

For producers calving in the winter months, it is essential to have a plan in place for warming calves during cold weather. Cold, wet conditions can quickly lead to hypothermia. Therefore, having the equipment and tools on hand to deal with this type of situation can quickly minimize calf losses.  

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