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Paisley suggests tips for calving

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Calving season is right around the corner and Steve Paisley, Extension beef cattle specialist with the University of Wyoming, has a few tips, pointers and suggestions for calving. 

Increase nutrition

Paisley states nutrition is one of the most important areas to focus on before a cow calves, and producers should make sure the cow is receiving her increased nutritional requirements in the weeks prior to calving. 

“In the last trimester of a cow’s pregnancy, her nutritional requirements go up by 30 percent. Once she reaches calving and starts producing milk, her nutrient requirements go up by another 30 percent,” comments Paisley. 

Evaluating a cow’s body condition score and assessing the forage content of the environment cows are in prior to calving indicates if supplemental feeds need to be provided prior to calving.  

Varying requirements

The use of vaccines can be a very effective tool to improve immunity in a calf and protect them against diseases. Vaccines can pass immunity benefits to a calf if administered to a cow in the weeks prior to calving. 

“Generally, from a vaccination standpoint for pregnant cows, we consider giving a scour guard vaccine,” states Paisley. “We do that about two weeks prior to calving.”

Some operations will also administer a 7-Way or Clostridial C and D vaccine to their calves at birth. 

Cows that are three years old are still growing and have a higher plane of nutrition than mature cows. This requires them to consume more feed to fulfill their nutritional demands. 

“We often talk about managing three-year-old cows and trying to keep them in a little better condition going into calving than adult mature cows, due to their higher nutrient requirements and smaller frame size,” says Paisley. 

Paisley adds, “Any days after calving are going to be used to try and get those animals rebred and back in the herd.”


Another management practice that can be used prior to calving is to make sure cows are receiving their appropriate mineral requirements as well, especially major minerals like calcium and phosphorous. 

“Mineral requirements are increasing just like their nutritional requirements,” explains Paisley. “We don’t always emphasize a mineral program, but from calving to rebreeding, it is a good idea – this is a very critical time for the cows.”

Paisley also recommends utilizing an increased mineral intake with calves prior and during weaning.  

Feed analysis

Forage and feed analysis on all feeds given to cows is another useful tool for producers to use to help out with their calving needs. 

“Not enough producers take the time to get a feed analysis,” says Paisley. “By getting one, they can reduce feeding costs and make sure all of a cow’s nutritional requirements are met.”

Typically by feeding protein supplements or alfalfa hay, those mineral requirements will be met. 

“As long as we’re meeting their energy and protein requirements that’s half of the battle right there,” advises Paisley. 

Preparing facilities

Taking a quick check on calving facilities to make sure all the essential calving supplies are stocked up and all the necessary equipment is in good working order is key. 

Cold and windy environments during calving season also lead to an increase in nutritional requirements, and by providing some type of protection for the cows, the increase in nutrition could potentially be decreased. 

Helping out

When dystocia occurs during calving, Paisley recommends intervening sooner, rather than later.

“We want to give that cow a good chance to calve on her own, but in all honesty, it is probably better for the overall health of the calf and the cow’s ability to rebreed to help her sooner rather than later,” says Paisley. “We suggest a timeframe of six hours before assistance is called.”

“Certainly once the water sac breaks, the timeframe to get that calf out is one to two hours,” adds Paisley.

Recognizing whether the front or the back legs of the calf are coming out is another very important aspect to know and decide if assistance is required in getting that calf out. 


“It is very vital for a calf to get up and receive that first milk – colostrum – from the cow within the first 12 hours since birth,” says Paisley. “Recent studies from the last three years indicate colostrum should be consumed within the first six hours following birth.”

The importance of ingesting colostrum right after birth is due to the large size of the antibodies, called IgNs, which are in the colostrum. These large antibodies can only be consumed right after birth because the calves’ intestine is very porous then. 

As the calf gets older, the pores in intestines start to close and are no longer able to absorb the large antibodies. The antibodies contribute significantly to calves’ immunity and fighting off illness and diseases. 

There is no better way for a calf to receive those antibodies for their immunity other than absorbing them through their intestines. 

“If a calf were to receive a vaccine without ingesting colostrum, their immune system is not set up to respond very well to that vaccine,” advises Paisley. “Certainly that calf has every chance to be healthy, but they’re not going to have the same immunity as a calf that did receive colostrum and those antibodies.”

Madeline Robinson is assistant editor at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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