A quick update on our farm babies and mamas
Calving season is fully underway on our farm and we have quite a few new additions to update you on! Over the last two weeks, we have had three heifer (girl) calves and two bull (boy) calves born. All of the calves are doing well, and we are so excited that they are all healthy!
As Jess mentioned a couple of weeks ago in her Baby Bump update, we moved all of our cows and heifers home to our calving facility from grazing on corn stalks in the beginning of January. There is no doubt these months in Minnesota can be hard, so by bringing them all home, they are provided shelter from the cold winter elements. We have a main barn that all cattle stay in until they are close to calving, and then we also have several maternity pens.
*Quick side note: cows are female cattle that have had a baby before, while heifers are females that have not had a baby yet. Once a heifer calves, she becomes a cow! 🙂
We check the cows and heifers at least every two to three hours during calving season (especially when it is extremely cold) to see if any are close to giving birth. Signs we look for include udder development which means the udder is beginning to increase in size or springing, which is the relaxation or swelling of the vulva. (I know I know, it sounds gross, but it’s one sure way for us to know if a soon-to-be mama is close to labor and needs to be moved.)
If any ladies show these signs, we move them to a separate maternity pen (like this one here) that is connected to the main barn. These maternity pens are warmer and bedded to the max with corn stalks or straw which provides optimal comfort and helps keep the newborn calf dry.
Since the main barn is a bit colder, ensuring we move the cows or heifers before they calve is crucial because if a baby is born on the colder floor and the mama doesn’t care for her baby right away (which rarely happens, but nonetheless we have to be prepared in case it does), the calf’s chances of survival can significantly decline.
Another reason we move the mamas is so that we can watch the baby closer when they are born. We want to make sure the calf sucks on mama to get colostrum within the first 12-24 of its life. If the calf is really cold or if it doesn’t suck within that time frame (doesn’t happen too often, but it is something we are prepared for), we give the calf 100% maternal replacement colostrum instead to provide the calf with energy.
What in the world is colostrum you ask? It’s the milk produced by a cow following the first few days after giving birth. It is rich in antibodies, growth factors, and protects the newborn calf from infection. So, it’s crucial we keep an eye on mama and baby to make sure they both get the nutrients and care they need!
After a few days when we are certain the cow and calf are healthy, they transition back into the main barn. There they will grow and develop until we move them to pasture in the late spring! Specific genetics and growth will determine which heifers we keep back as replacement heifers. Replacements are heifers we keep to add to our herd so they can hopefully become mama cows someday too. Those that are not chosen as replacements will be sold as feeder calves along with the bull calves that will be raised as steers to feed out for beef production.
We are loaded up with new rose pink and green tags (pink for the girls and green for the boys 😉 ), markers, vaccines, and all other supplies to ensure 2022 calving is a success. Now we just have to get busy coming up with names!
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Rooted in ag and led by faith,