Friday, 26 February 2016

Minimising losses at calving

Producers are still suffering losses at calving caused by calving problems and untimely interventions, many of which are avoidable. Minimising these is the focus of a calving course developed by AHDB Beef & Lamb and SAC Veterinary Services.

Alwyn Jones and Basil Lowman from SAC initially delivered two webinars to vets, with the aim of providing them with training on the course so that they can go out and deliver the presentation to their clients. Earlier this week, Alwyn delivered a webinar for producers whose veterinary practices were not holding a meeting, giving them the opportunity to hear the information first hand. A recording of the webinar is now available on our YouTube channel,
Beef & Lamb TV, for anyone who missed it.

The course aims to teach best practice when calving cows and show how to resuscitate new-born calves to increase survival rate and thriftiness, reduce the incidence of hypoxia and acidosis and improve welfare of the calving cow and calf.

Research has shown that 90% of calves that die around birth were alive when calving began, with the major causes of death being trauma and oxygen deprivation. Many of these losses are preventable if the right measures are taken when calving difficulties occur.

If a calf has a difficult birth it is at greater risk of picking up disease, may have difficulty maintaining body temperature after calving and absorption of antibodies found in the colostrum of the dam may be reduced. A dam that experiences a difficult calving is more likely to have fertility issues in the future.

Factors that can make a significant contribution to reducing calving difficulties are the selection of parents, body condition score and nutritional supplementation.

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) can be used to select sires and dams based on calving ease. Samuel Boon, AHDB Breeding Manager says “Research has shown that genetics can play an important role in the calving ease within your herd. It can influence birth weight, gestation length and calving ease of the calf and mother.

“For example, by using Birth Weight EBVs, sires can be selected to produce smaller calves at birth which will increase the ease with which it is calved.”

AHDB Beef & Lamb has produced a training tool so you can learn what you should be looking for when picking terminal sires based on EBVs. The tool can be found online
here.

Online training tool for buying a recorded bull

Ensuring that the cow is at the right Body Condition Score (BCS) at calving is also important. A cow that is too fat will have trouble calving due to narrowing of the birth canal and fat in the muscle means she will tire more quickly. A cow that is too thin will take longer to get back into calf and will have to achieve a higher liveweight gain to do so.

Supplementing a cow’s feed in the two weeks before calving can increase the likelihood of a non-assisted calving. Magnesium helps to improve muscle tone and reduce the occurrence of slow calving. Supplementing with Digestible Undegradable Protein (DUP) such as soya bean will improve colostrum quality and quantity.

The webinar that Alwyn delivered goes into detail on what to expect from a normal calving and how and when to intervene. Click
here if you missed it or want to watch again. Also take a look at the BRP+ document Minimising calving difficulties.