Cold Weather Calving Tips and Tricks

Cold Weather Calving Tips and Tricks

South Dakota rancher uses O-No-More powder to encourage cows to lick newborn calves and get them up to nurse.

By Kindra Gordon

Midland, S.D., rancher TJ Gabriel is gearing up for some cold weather calving.

Gabriel operates Deep Creek Angus Ranch with his wife, Jeanine, and their young family. He will calve 130 registered Angus cows, 30 of which are first calf heifers. 

The cows will start calving about Feb. 1. About Jan. 1 he began supplementing them with 20% cake and grass/alfalfa hay to provide extra protein and energy as they moved toward lactation.

Because he calves in winter, Gabriel employs several tactics to combat the cold, including:

TJ Gabriel uses several special new products and old-fashion practices to improve winter calving success.

Getting calves up and going. Gabriel likes to sprinkle O-NO-MORE powder on each newborn calf. The specially formulated product helps ensure that cows claim their calf. "It helps make the cows a little more aggressive when licking calves off and getting calves up to nurse…the faster that calf gets up the better," says Gabriel.

Using vitamins and iodine. Gabriel gives every calf born a Vitamin B complex shot to boost their immune system and get their growth off to a good start. He also puts iodine on their navels.

Protecting calves' ears. Since temperatures can sometimes be -40 degrees F while he is calving, Gabriel will refrain from tagging newborn calves for about a week, as the ear can freeze around the fresh tag hole. Because he sells seedstock bulls and females, Gabriel wants to avoid frozen ears as much as possible. In extreme cold, he will use duct tape to tape a calf's ear tips back against its neck to prevent the tips from freezing.

Keeping pens clean. To keep calving pens in the barn sanitized, Gabriel will put lime down each time he cleans them. He also keeps barn stalls and calving pens clean and freshly bedded.

Using straps rather than chains. When he has to pull a calf, Gabriel prefers nylon straps over calf chains. "Chains can injure calves' legs. Straps are a lot more calf-friendly," he says.

Gordon writes from Whitewood, S.D

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