Calving is in full swing but grass turnout must wait
As I write this column I sit on a round bale of straw observing a Charolais crossbred cow just starting to calf. Calving is going good except for one stillborn calf. I don't know what the reason was for it.
The cow came to milk so I purchased a calf for her. Calves born at the start of the season were a little small even though the cows are in great condition. By now, I'm in the middle of the calving and the calves seem to be heavier at birth, to the point that I would not like to see them getting any bigger for the remainder of the season. So I may restrict silage to the uncalved cows.
Heifers are calving at the moment with no difficulties, except for one that got a little excited. The cows are housed on slats. They are moved to the calving shed four or five days before calving. Sometimes it is hard to judge but I use scanning and service dates, along with the usual visual cues.
Cows remain in the calving shed on straw for about one week after calving. They are then turned out to a bare 3ac field next to the sheds with a wooded area that gives a nice bit of shelter too. They have access to round bale silage and a hi-mag mineral lick in a bucket. Cows will remain in this field until the calf is able to drink the extra milk that comes on tap when the cow is turned out to lush grass.
One aspect I have been giving more thought to this year is safety around calving. I have zero tolerance for mad cows or wild cattle on the farm.
These 600kg plus cows are powerful animals and we should be mindful of this. The female to male ratio in the calves seems to be 50:50 this year. Other years the heifer calves outnumbered the bulls by as much as 2:1.
With almost 150 round bales of silage left on the slab. I intend to hold off the turnout of the store cattle for another week to build up grass cover.