Dakota Farmer

3 tools needed to help both calf, cow

Difficult births for calf and cow require extra work and supplies.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

February 10, 2021

2 Min Read
Newborn calf getting up for first time
HELP FOR CALVES: Getting calves up on their feet sometimes requires a little extra nourishment. Be sure to have colostrum stored on the farm. K Neville/ Getty Images

To help newborn calves get off to a good start, you need to add a few items to your calving toolbox, according to Lindsay Waechter-Mead, a clinical practice veterinarian at the University of Nebraska Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center.

She offers three tools cattle producers should have nearby after a calf is born.

1. Colostrum replacer and whisk. Ranchers should know what type of colostrum replacer they have because everyone is different, mainly the number of grams of Immunoglobulin G, the antibody the calf receives from the cow. “Remember those babies are born completely like a blank slate, they need to get everything from mom to be able to fight off infection, and research has shown that you should have greater than 100 grams of IgG for those babies, but more recent research has actually shown 150 to 200 grams,” she says.

While it’s important to be prepared with colostrum replacer and whisk, Waechter-Mead reminds ranchers that Mother Cow has what’s best for her calf. “I know sometimes you’re tired and you don’t want to milk her out. But if she’s right there in the chute, it only makes sense to milk her out,” she says.

Related: What’s in your beef calving toolbox?

As a rule of thumb, Waechter-Mead says the calf needs about 5% of its bodyweight in colostrum in the first six hours of life. Thus, an 80-pound calf would need about 4 quarts. Those 4 quarts do not have to be administered all at once, but she says the first four hours of life are crucial, as that’s when peak absorption occurs.

2. Feeding tube. It’s best to feed the colostrum to a standing calf, but rarely will one stand immediately after being born, so getting them into a sternal position is the next best option. While it can be intimidating to get the feeder tube into the calf’s throat, with a little practice and knowing what to feel for, farmers can get the calf off to a good start.

3. Calf claimer powder. Waechter-Mead recommends having this product in your toolbox for those cows that need a little assistance in identifying and claiming their calf. She says the product is like dehydrated placenta and needs to be applied when the calf is still wet.

“My trick is I actually take a little bit of milk from mom and trickle it from the nose all the way down the head, down the back and just kind of sprinkle that on,” she says. “Obviously, don’t do this with every calf — but if I have somebody that’s not pairing very well or if we had a prolonged dystocia, or I just need that mom to kick it in and be a little bit smarter about what she’s doing.”

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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