Body condition important at calving – Jamestown Sun

Energy and protein requirements of the cow increase by 15% to 20% from mid to late gestation to support fetal growth and prepare the cow for lactation. Requirements increase again by 20% to 30% during peak lactation (about eight weeks post-calving).

“Failing to meet nutrient requirements prior to and after calving can have major impacts on reproductive performance, particularly for young cows,” said Janna Block, the Extension livestock systems specialist based at North Dakota State University’s Hettinger Research Extension Center. “Reproductive failure is the most common reason for culling cows from the herd, and open cows are a financial drain on an operation due to lost revenue potential and high replacement costs.”

Body condition scores (BCS) at calving are a useful indicator of the cows’ energy reserves and the overall success of the nutrition program. It is a more reliable indicator than weight alone because weight is affected by factors such as gut fill, age, frame size, stage of gestation and milk production, according to Block.

The BCS scale, which goes from 1 to 9, is an indicator of the percentage of body fat. Body condition scores are assessed visually or by touching the ribs, spine, tail head, and hooks and pins.

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BCS can be used to determine performance and whether changes should be made to nutritional management several key times of the year, including 90 days prior to calving, and at calving, weaning and breeding. Research has established that a certain amount of body fat is required for the reproductive system to function appropriately.

A strong relationship exists between BCS at calving and the number of days for cows to return to estrus. Ideally, BCS at calving should be 5 for mature cows and 6 for first-calf heifers, with condition maintained through breeding.

Block recommends including BCS of the cow with calving records. This will allow producers to assess the herd’s nutritional status on a large scale and will be useful when evaluating overall pregnancy rates after the next breeding season.

Consequences of calving in low body condition include smaller or weak calves, lower quality and quantity of colostrum, decreased milk production and reduced weaning weights. Colostrum is a form of milk that mammals produce in late pregnancy. It contains energy, protein, fat and vitamins, plus antibodies to protect newborns against disease until their own immune system is totally functional.

In addition, calving in BCS 4 or lower results in more cows being bred later in the breeding season and a reduction in overall pregnancy rates by up to 30%.

“Resuming estrous cycles and initiation of pregnancy are low on the biological priority list for nutrient use; therefore, these functions are likely to be compromised when energy stores are inadequate at calving,” Block says.

In late gestation, cows need to gain at least 100 pounds to support fetal growth and uterine development. If a cow simply is maintaining her weight during late gestation, she actually is losing body condition. Late-gestation diets should be designed so cows gain at least 1 pound per day to maintain condition, and more if an increase in condition is desired.

One body condition score represents about 80 to 100 pounds of live weight. If a 1,200-pound cow has a BCS of 4 at the beginning of the third trimester, she would need to gain at least 80 pounds to gain a condition score and at least another 100 pounds to support fetal development. Therefore, she should weigh 1,380 pounds at calving.

In this example, the cow would have to gain about 2 pounds per day, which may not be possible, depending on weather and access to high-quality feedstuffs. The ideal situation is to increase weight when requirements are lowest at weaning, but attempting to increase condition late is better than not doing it at all.

In situations where cows have calved in less than ideal body condition, weight gain must be increased rapidly following calving to achieve acceptable pregnancy rates.

“This is extremely challenging because large amounts of dietary energy are already required during early lactation just to maintain body tissues and support milk production,” Block notes. “Cows usually utilize a portion of their own energy (fat) stores for the first several months after calving to help overcome deficiencies, which can lead to weight and condition losses.”

Some research indicates mature cows that calve in slightly lower condition (BCS 4) still may have acceptable reproductive performance if they are fed to reach BCS 5 by breeding. However, producers still run a risk of increasing the calving interval.

First-calf heifers are less likely to respond to supplementation due to increased requirements, and negative impacts on reproduction are likely. In one study, heifers that calved with BCS of less than 5 had subsequent pregnancy rates of 67%, despite the fact that they were fed to gain nearly 2 pounds per day from calving to breeding.

“Producers should evaluate body condition at calving and act immediately if they want to salvage the breeding season for thin cows,” Block advises. “It will require enhanced management, access to extremely nutrient-dense feedstuffs and potentially the use of strategies such as early weaning calves to reduce requirements and induce estrus.”

Producers should contact their county’s NDSU Extension agent or an Extension specialist for more information about body condition scoring and ration evaluation. Go to to locate an agent in your area.

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Seeing double: Calving twins – Fence Post

Calving difficulties can make twins rather frustrating, especially when the birth of the first twin is complicated, putting the second twin at risk. Dr. Kathy Whitman, DVM, said solving twin calving problems is a matter of untangling more than being too large.
Photo by Deanna Licking

The frequency of twins during calving, according to USDA surveys, is estimated in about 2 percent of pregnancies, more common in dairy breeds. The result of either a double ovulation or, less commonly, an early embryo will split into two, resulting in identical twins.

Some cows and cow families are more apt to produce twin pregnancies though some years seem to result in a higher percentage of twins. This could be a result of a cow in really good body condition score at the time of breeding or a number of environmental factors that could play a role.

According to Dr. Bob Larson at Kansas State University, one twin is often not as vigorous. There are differences between placentas in terms of nutrient transfer and the birth itself can affect the calves depending upon which twin is where in the birth canal, especially in the case of dystocia.

Calving difficulties can make twins rather frustrating, especially when the birth of the first twin is complicated, putting the second twin at risk. Dr. Kathy Whitman, DVM, said solving twin calving problems is a matter of untangling more than being too large.

“The calves are not too big, they’re just in a jumbled mess,” she said. “If one is not coming right after another, they may be trying to come at the same time and that’s when they get a little tangled.”

Dystocia is common in twins and is one more reason not to encourage it as a production method. Whitman, who owns Bov-Eye Veterinary Services, said she has seen research operations that select for twins to gather data on the method and it is certainly not ideal.

Twins can pose a managerial challenge for producers if a twin is either abandoned or simply not thriving and must be removed from the cow. Whitman said while some more mature and experienced cows may be able to raise twins, she typically recommends one twin be grafted onto another cow if possible.

“If we’re doing well and not losing any calves, which hopefully we’re not, we may have bottle babies and that becomes a logistical challenge more than anything,” she said.

The grafting process depends on the nature of the cow, sometimes requiring a bit of sedation for the cow to calm her for the process of allowing the calf to safely nurse while she may be in a headcatch or even hobbled. Having her milk in the calf’s system helps the calf smell like the cow he or she is being grafted to. Products like Orphan-No-More claiming powder can also help the calf smell like the cow, but Whitman said she recommends it in tandem with other methods for a successful graft. Some producers will skin the cow’s dead calf and tie the hide to the new calf. She said she doesn’t discourage this method if it works for the producer but said it can be challenging.

“The biggest thing is to protect that calf from being hurt by the new cow and some cows are just not nice and you can’t use them, but for the most part, I think we’re pretty successful putting them in a head catch and letting the calf nurse,” she said. “If we do that for a day or two, with some other chemical restraints it’s successful in my experience.”

Another managerial consideration is culling a twin heifer when the time comes. Larson said exposure to testosterone in the uterine environment results in freemartinism in about 90 percent of heifers born twin to a bull calf. Whitman said if a client is making a decision to cull a calf to avoid twins and is without a feeding option, culling heifers born to a bull is her recommendation.

As rebreeding time approaches, the nutritional needs of a cow who raised a single twin don’t differ from the rest of the females though keeping all the cows in good body condition is a best practice. Whitman said cows should be in good body condition at calving time as well to avoid problems. Cows allowed to raise twins would require some additional protein and energy but would be managed separately to avoid the other cows overeating.

“Regardless of whether they have twins or singles, if they’re increasing in body condition towards the breeding season, those cows breed back better,” she said. “We definitely don’t want fat cows at calving but we do want to have cows that are stable and as they increase body condition, that increases reproductive efficiency.”​ ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at or (970) 768-0024.

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Virginia police went on a highway pursuit — for a cow – SB Nation

Although millions of Americans are now under government orders to shelter in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, one Virginia cow must have missed the memo. WKTR reported that the animal caused temporary holdups on highway I-64 in Chesapeake, Virginia, while local police and fire rescue were called try to guide her off the road. The cow managed to run about one mile before law enforcement managed to corral her.

The local fire department later announced the bovine runaway didn’t originate from a local farm, but had actually fallen (or intentionally jumped?) out of a livestock trailer. When law enforcement finally caught up to the cow, they led her to safety with a tow strap. She has since been reunited with its owner.

The most wild part? The captured fugitive is completely uninjured, and you can see her in all her glory below. Zoom in on her face and you’ll see she has no regret for her actions.

Chesapeake Cow now joins an impressive history of cattle who dared to go where few farm animals have gone before: sprinting down America’s highways, probably very confused, but ultimately having a good time. This history includes the 89 cows who were set loose when a tractor trailer tipped over near Atlanta in 2018 and the bull that had a standoff with Queens police in 2017.

Although this courageous Virginian legend was captured after only an hour of freedom, I hope she remembers what it felt like. Like all cows (and farmers!), she provides a vital service keeping people fed, which we can appreciate even more now that we’re seeing empty shelves in grocery stores around the world. I salute her efforts and wish her the best of luck in escaping again in the future.

An American folk hero for the modern era.
Original photo from @ChesapeakeFire on Twitter.

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Escaped cow causes chaos on Virginia highway – UPI News

March 25 (UPI) — A busy stretch of highway in Virginia was brought to a stand-still when a cow jumped out of a livestock trailer and went running down the roadway.

Virginia Department of Transportation traffic cameras were recording Tuesday afternoon as Virginia State Police troopers and other personnel chased after the loose bovine on Interstate 64 in Chesapeake.

The Chesapeake Fire Department said it took the combined efforts of firefighters, state troopers, the Chesapeake Police Department, the Chesapeake Fire Marshall’s Office and the Virginia Department of Transportation to wrangle the loose animal after it ran down the interstate for more than a mile.

The cow’s run caused traffic delays on both the eastbound and westbound sides of the highway, officials said.

Investigators determined the cow had jumped out of a livestock trailer being pulled by a pickup truck. The animal, which was not injured, was returned to its owner.

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Cow that swam four miles to shore after Hurricane Dorian gives birth to 'miracle' calf – USA TODAY

A pregnant cow who survived Hurricane Dorian and swam 4 miles back to shore last September has given birth to its “sea” calf.

The calf, whose photo was posted Monday on Facebook by Cedar Island, North Carolina, resident Ricky Daniels, has white fur and one brown eye and one blue eye — a rare phenomenon known as heterochromia iridis that is shared by some animals.

The farming organization Ranch Solutions was hired to return the pregnant cow, Dori, back home to North Carolina’s Cedar Island, about 350 miles east of Charlotte, after she, along with two other cows, was first discovered in the Outer Banks after escaping the wrath of Dorian’s nearly eight-foot “mini tsunami.”

Dori, said Ranch Solutions, was the “difficult” of the trio — giving them the most trouble during their rescue operation back to the island.

The cows that live on Cedar Island are considered feral, and most have a unique bleached blond appearance, resident Woody Hancock told McClatchy News.

“The wild cattle that lived on Cedar Island were not used to seeing humans or having them approach them,” the state’s National Park Service said.

Many other creatures that lived on the island, including 28 wild horses, died during the storm.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote

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Cow thoughts – Fence Post

If, by some odd happening, I ever get a chance to talk to a cow about her behavior, I would like to find out why cows do certain things. If you see cattle on a fairly regular basis, you can make your own list of questions … or maybe you can answer mine.

I get such a kick out of the way cows have the need to walk single file to get a drink, and they frequently use the same walkway. That’s where we get the expression of a cow path. We hear about the dominant cow in a herd, the lead cow, and that is understood. Yet, it never ceases to amaze me to wonder how the conversation goes. “Mabel, I’m thirsty. Would you please lead us over to the watering hole?”

I mean, can’t cows just go it alone (I say, tongue in cheek.)

Likely some readers, especially men, will have a human correlation to this activity. That is the restroom syndrome afflicting most women. You have a group of people seated together in a restaurant. One female decides she needs to “go powder her nose” and she mentions it aloud. Whoosh! There is suddenly a mass exodus to the restroom. No one knows why. Men don’t do that as a common occurrence. Because I’m a gal I can make the comparison. A man would be called sexist or worse if he mentioned it. Humor me here.


Back to the subject of cows. Did you know that cows babysit for each other? It’s true. If you watch, you’ll see a whole passel of little calves — not yet eating hay — laying or playing in a group, with one or two cows attending them while the balance of the mamma cows stroll off to munch their hay. The babysitters rotate allowing all of the cows to eat in peace. Hmmm, sound familiar?

Perhaps the most poignant behavior is mourning over a deceased fellow cow. I remember when I was young, seeing a cow that had died of natural causes in a corral and noting how the cows stood closely by and lowed, as if to say good bye. It is almost heartbreaking too when a calf dies and the mamma cow calls for the calf for two or three days afterward. Naturally her udder becomes engorged and she is miserable, but far and above it her mothering instinct. She knows something is not right and she’s frustrated when her calf doesn’t come when she calls, as any mother — animal or human — would be.

Much is being written about handling cows, gently and correctly, yet simply observing and thinking can be a great form of education. What have you learned from cows or would you like to learn about cows?

Peggy would like to hear from former city residents who have relocated to the country about their joys and tribulations of the move and rural living. Reach her through ❖

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