Maternal Matters: calving heifers

Calving is one of the biggest milestones in the suckler calendar. Ensuring each cow produces a live calf is a major determinant of profitability. Taking the right steps to prevent calving difficulties and assisting only when required is key.

Considerations for a successful calving

It is important that your heifers are managed correctly to have the best possible chance of conceiving, growing, and giving birth to a healthy calf. Plus, rearing the calf until weaning. A lot of energy is needed to achieve this, especially as we require them to breed successfully and consecutively within a 365-day period.

Nutrition and health play vital roles in ensuring heifers and cows can keep up with this demand. Body condition score (BCS) is closely related to how quickly they will start their reproductive cycle.

It is important that you do not allow your breeding cows to get too thin. Heifers will have higher nutrient demands (to be reproductive) than older cows because they are themselves still growing.

In an ideal situation, the heifer or cow will calve unassisted. However, this is often not the case, especially for their first calving. A calf may be breech, have a leg bent back, or be too large. In this case, the cow or heifer will need help.

To minimise disease spreading to the new calf or cow, the calving area and facilities need to be clean and in good working order. If possible, calving pens should be cleaned out between each calving. 

Calving heifers: transition management

Getting nutrition right during this critical period ensures cows and heifers are in optimum body condition before calving.

Effective transition management ensures that females commence cycling shortly after calving, enabling them to successfully rebreed within 365 days.

Assisting difficult calvings

The birth of a calf requires a significant investment of time, effort and money. It is the only annual output from the cow, so it is important to minimise calving difficulties and know how to assist when necessary.

Hygiene when calving heifers

Poor hygiene in the calving area can have adverse effects on both cow and calf health and performance.