Feb 12, 2020 1:02 PM

Plan now to assure successful calving season

Posted Feb 12, 2020 1:02 PM
<b>Producers should consider shortening the breeding and calving season by controlling the duration of bull exposure to the herd, breeding first-calf heifers earlier than mature cows, matching herd genetics to the environment and making committed culling decisions.</b> Photo courtesy KSRE
Producers should consider shortening the breeding and calving season by controlling the duration of bull exposure to the herd, breeding first-calf heifers earlier than mature cows, matching herd genetics to the environment and making committed culling decisions. Photo courtesy KSRE

MANHATTAN – Cattle producers who have not yet started the spring calving season still have time to plan ahead, and a Kansas State University veterinarian notes that could make a big difference in having a successful year.

“This is the time for a pre-emptive strike,” said A.J. Tarpoff, a beef veterinarian with K-State Research and Extension. “If you haven’t started calving yet on your operation, now is the time to start thinking about what you can do to be ready.”

Tarpoff noted that producers need to make sure they have the necessary supplies on hand, which may require buying or repairing items and facilities. Then, he adds, set in motion a plan to manage the birth of the new calves.

“Calving books are a phenomenal tool,” Tarpoff said. “It could be just a little pocketbook where you write down who calved, when they calved, if there was difficulty, and whether it was a male or female coming out. There is a lot of information that we can capture about the birthing process so that we’re able to make better decisions within our herd in the future.”

One of the newer management techniques that can lead to successful calving is to feed cows at dusk. “There have been several research studies that show reliable results that a higher percentage of animals are born during daylight hours when we feed the cow in the late evening hours,” Tarpoff said.

Feeding late in the evening, he said, will help decrease midnight or early morning births, which are hard on workers and can make the birth more complicated if there are difficulties.

Tarpoff hosted a series of calving schools across Kansas over the last several weeks to help the state’s producers be adequately prepared to bring in as many healthy animals as possible. The final session for this season was video-streamed on Facebook Live. A recording of that session can be seen on the K-State Research and Extension Facebook page.

One of his recommendations is that producers use a cooler to store tools and equipment: “On cold days and nights, the cooler will help equipment to stay nice and warm. We can close it up and know that our equipment is not going to freeze,” he said.

Tarpoff said producers should check calving chains or obstetric straps for rust, sharp spots or fraying. He also suggests having multiple sets on hand in case there are multiple births at once. The straps should be cleaned, disinfected and hung to dry after each use.

“Once those straps are dried, put them in a closed container so that you don’t re-contaminate them by accident,” he said. “Then, throw them back into your cooler kit.”

Producers should have a meeting with their local veterinarian to discuss situations that may occur, and what medicine or other supplies may be needed to handle those. “They can prescribe the products you’ll need and set you up to be a little more prepared,” Tarpoff said.

Producers can also contact their local extension agent or visit KSUBeef.org for more information on getting prepared for spring calving.

How to handle a difficult calving situation

Tarpoff shares the following steps for producers to follow if they experience a difficult calving situation:

During active calving. Once the cow’s water bag breaks, assure that they are making adequate progress toward birth within an hour. Adequate progress means the calf is moving through the birth canal. If there seems to be no progress, it is time to intervene.

How long should I intervene? “First, figure out what is causing the problem,” Tarpoff said. “Usually the calf is not coming through the birth canal quite right.” He said producers should try to intervene for a half hour, gently manipulating the calf’s head, legs or other parts through the birth canal.

Call for help. If problems persist beyond a half hour, call a veterinarian for help. “That’s your best chance to get a live calf on the ground,” Tarpoff said.

“Don’t hesitate to seek assistance when it’s obvious you need it,” Tarpoff said. “For a lot of locations in Kansas, the veterinarian may not be five minutes away. They may be an hour away or they may be on another call. If you communicate with them that you’re having an issue, you’re trying to solve it but it’s not going well, at least it gets it on their radar that they can get to your operation as soon as possible.”

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Feb 12, 2020 1:02 PM
Insight: Outside the fencerow
Greg Doering. Photo courtesy Kansas Farm Bureau" />
Greg Doering. Photo courtesy Kansas Farm Bureau

By GREG DOERING
Kansas Farm Bureau

It’s tough to make a difference in this world, and it’s impossible to do so and remain comfortable. As American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall is fond of repeating the advice his father gave him: Making a difference requires you to get outside your fencerows.

No matter what difference you want to make, leaving your fencerow in the rearview mirror likely will have a bigger effect on you than anything else.

Mark Twain said it best in “Innocents Abroad” when he wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

I’ve been fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity to travel fairly frequently. Though one of my biggest regrets is quitting Spanish class after two years in high school. I’ve been to four countries where it’s the dominant language, yet I’m speechless after saying my name and a few pleasantries.

And while I’ve had some slight mishaps on a few journeys, including my recent jaunt to the AFBF Annual Convention in Austin, upon arrival, I’ve never had an unpleasant experience. I’ve been tired, lost and uncomfortable in my surroundings. I also survived and become a better person for it.

Travel also forges connections with those who are most like you. Now safely back on Kansas soil, I keep returning to two conversations with fellow Kansans in Austin.

“The toughest part is getting past the mailbox,” one said of the difficulty of getting away from his farm.

The other topic is true of both travel and growing older, generally. “I was surer of more things when I was younger,” another said. I agree. I used to have an answer for everything, and now it seems most of my sentences start with, “It depends …” or end with “that’s just my advice.”

That reminded me of Anthony Bourdain, chef and author turned professional vagabond, who said, “It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.”

One thing I’m still certain of is getting outside your fencerow is difficult. There’s always one more thing that needs done or some other excuse not to leave. But the thing is you don’t have to go far – just a little beyond the mailbox to see something you haven’t seen before; experience something new; feel the uneasiness in your gut from venturing outside your comfort zone.

It means stepping up, speaking out and, quite possibly, becoming the center of attention, if only momentarily. It means experiencing new thoughts, new people and new places. Simply put, it means seeing, doing, traveling – growing.

That’s the real reason getting outside your fencerows is so incredibly valuable – it allows you to grow. Getting away makes you vulnerable. It makes you reliant on other. It makes you consider just how big the world is and just how small you are.

And yet everyday small, ordinary people leave their fencerows behind and change the world.

"Insight" is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service. Copyright © 2020 Kansas Farm Bureau, All rights reserved.