Cows that suffer health problems at calving or in early lactation are likely to have a reduced reproductive performance.
Health problems such as stillborns, twins, assisted or difficult calvings, retained foetal membranes and vaginal discharge directly affect the reproductive tract.
Follow these points this spring to maximise your herd's reproductive performance at mating:
1.Record health problems to assess the impact of each problem across the herd and if abnormal discuss with vet to find a solution.
2.Observe all calvings if possible, and keep a close eye on high-risk calvings or calvings which are likely to be prolonged, such as overweight heifers, heifers in-calf to sires that produce big calves, cows carrying twins or cows with a history of milk fever.
3.Calve cows in a clean environment. This is important because during normal birth, uterine contractions push the calf's legs and nose part way through the vulva.
When the cow relaxes the calf falls back into the abdomen, drawing air back in. If the bedding is dirty, this air will be heavily contaminated with bacteria.
4.If assisting a calving, make sure you are clean, and are using clean calving ropes.
Consider wearing disposable arm-length gloves when assisting a calving and establish a routine after calving to clean equipment and have it ready to go.
5. Seek veterinary assistance promptly if a cow goes off milk, rapidly losses condition, stops eating or looks sick.
6. Treat any cows with a uterine infection promptly and follow up any cows with health problems between 14-28 days after calving.
Treatment often involves a uterine wash, intra-uterine antibiotics or intra-muscular injections of antibiotics.
7. Small heifers are prone to difficult calvings, with fewer reserves for milk production, so ensure your heifers are big enough at calving to minimise problems.
8. Select easy calving sires, based on bull breed and individual sires within a breed.