Careful and thorough planning helps ensure that the calving season runs as smoothly as possible. You can use this checklist to help prepare for the season ahead.
- Ensure each pen is thoroughly cleaned immediately after the
last group of calves leave the shed. The following process is
- Remove and dispose of all used bedding and manure.
- Scrub all walls, including pen partitions, and gates with hot water and detergent. A pressure washer can be used to remove dried manure.
- Allow UV light and time to air-dry all surfaces. Applying lime will accelerate the drying time and raise the surface pH, which helps inhibit bacterial growth.
- Apply APVMA approved disinfectant to all surfaces, including the floor.
- Re-apply new bedding a week prior to expected start of calving to allow any dust to settle and water leaks to be identified.
- Ensure adequate bedding has been ordered and is appropriately stored for the entire calving season.
- Identify and mend any broken fixtures.
- Check isolation pen(s)- clean using the same protocol.
- Repair any broken fixtures.
- Re-assess flooring and protection from the weather.
- Clean using the same protocol as for the Calf Shed.
- Back-up last seasons records and store in a separate area to the calf shed.
- Renew any necessary recording equipment.
- Ensure there is enough recording equipment (whiteboards, pens, books) for the entire calving season.
CALVING FACILITIES & EQUIPMENT
- Give the crush a full service: replace any broken latches/fixtures and ensure all gates open and close easily but securely
Re-stock your calving equipment if necessary:
- 1 x long chain/rope
- 2 x short chains/ropes
- Calving pulleys/jack
- Obstetric gloves and lubricant
- Calf Resuscitator
- NLIS tags and applicator
- Farm ID tags (+/- marker pen)
- Calf Coat(s)
- Navel spray (2% chlorhexidine or 7% iodine)
- Check equipment for colostrum feeding. Order new tube feeders, teats or Perfect Udder bags as necessary.
- Replace marker pens for writing on bottles/bags.
- Check Brix refractometer for breakages/mould in the view finder. Ask your vet to re-calibrate to ensure accuracy.
- Check equipment for colostrum collection: stainless steel buckets, lids, jugs, funnels.
- Order potassium sorbate solution from your vet to preserve colostrum for up to 7 days in the fridge.
- Check your fridge: door seals, cleanliness, temperature. The internal temperature should be 4°C.
- If using a deep freezer, clean out and defrost prior to calving. Discard any frozen colostrum that is >12 months old.
- Review and update cleaning protocol for equipment. Restock any cleaning equipment/chemicals.
- Your vet can help you determine if your drying-off strategy needs reviewing, using your previous mastitis and individual cow cell count records. A common trigger for changing drying-off strategies is if more than 5% of the herd encounters clinical mastitis during the first two weeks of lactation. Potential changes to drying-off include the inclusion of a teat-sealant and using selective dry cow treatment.
- Any changes to drying-off should be discussed with your vet to ensure all staff are adequately trained in all procedures.
- Book your drying off consultation with your vet at least 2 weeks before intended drying off.
Your vet will help you decide on an appropriate vaccination program for your herd.
- Ensure all vaccinated animals receive annual boosters as required.
- Ensure all new animals and heifers receive the primary course of vaccinations as required.
- Order your vaccines in advance to ensure timely availability.
- Using mating and pregnancy records, create a due-to-calve list for cows and heifers. This will help determine when cows/heifers are due to start transition feeding.
- Review previous records to establish if any changes to the transition feeding program are required.
- Ask your vet/nutritionist to help establish a transition feeding program that is appropriate for your herd.
- Ensure all feeds are ordered in advance to guarantee availability
- Accurate records will help estimate the expected calving pattern. Use these records to decide on where cows/heifers will be calving and if there will be enough space and feed. Have a contingency plan in the event of wet weather.
- If a calving pad is used: ensure adequate drainage, order new bedding, repair any fixtures (troughs, gates, crush, lights).
- If calving paddocks are used: ensure they can be rotated, are adequately drained and are free from hazards.
- Ensure all feeders, teats, buckets and milk carts are washed and disinfected. Feeders should not be scratched, nor the teats weathered. Replace as necessary.
- Order calf milk replacer in advance and store in a cool, dry place away from other animals.
- Ensure equipment for measuring milk replacer is functional.
- Replace batteries in weigh scales as necessary.
- Order calf grain (pellets or texturised meal) and store in cool, dry place away from other animals. Calf grain should be a minimum of 18% crude protein and contain a coccidiostat (Bovatec or Rumensin).
- Check all calves will have access to calf grain and fresh ad lib water. Replace troughs and drinkers as necessary.
- All water troughs and supply pipes should be thoroughly cleaned. Ensure the filter of any water tanks are cleaned and correctly fitted. Replace any worn seals to reduce the risk of leaking.
CALF HEALTH MANAGEMENT
- Familiarize yourself with your Calf Treatment Protocols. Ask your vet if you need an update on any treatments or products.
- Review the CalfPRO Handbook with all staff involved in rearing calves.
Restock your sick calf equipment:
- Disposable gloves
- Waterproof apron
- Foot bath (large cat litter trays are useful for this)
- Disinfectant for feeding equipment (eg. household bleach).
- Disinfectant for housing/footbath (eg. Virkon-S)
- Liquid detergent (eg. washing up liquid).
- Scrubbing brushes
- Designated tube feeders for sick calves.
- Calf electrolytes.
- Digital thermometer.
- Bucket, jug, funnel.
- New syringes (5ml) and needles (18G 1”) appropriate for calf treatments. 2-4 sterile sample pots.
- Calf coat(s).