Tips for the Calving Season

As calving time approaches, being prepared can make life much easier for producers and potentially save a calf, says the communication officer of Meatco, Selma Shipanga.

“One of the most important aspects to consider during the birth of a calf is the health of both the cow and her new-born. Ensuring that no cow or calf is lost during birth relies on different factors which require careful planning. It is therefore important for producers and their herders to keep a close eye on expecting cows for any complications during this time, “she informs.

Here are a few tips to help you through the approaching calving season:

Feeding calves

Almost immediately after birth and within the first 12 hours thereafter, calves need to drink milk to obtain colostrum, a milky fluid that contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and antibodies that fight disease-causing agents such as bacteria and viruses. Calves are born with little defence or immunity against disease and the colostrum is necessary to kick start the calf’s immune system. Colostrum also provides the calf with its primary source of nutrients, as it contains various hormones and growth factors that are necessary for growth and development of the digestive tract. Calves that do not receive adequate amounts of quality colostrum early in life are more susceptible to diseases. Milk or milk replacer should be fed to a calf until it is two or three months old when it can be weaned onto a diet of hay or grain.


Calves should be kept in a clean, dry and well-ventilated area. This is important to prevent sickness andor infections. If you are going to keep your calves on pasture, build a fence around it and make sure the calves have access to shade and water.

Have a veterinarian visit

Have your vet see your calves to give vaccines and check that they are healthy if you don’t know how to do this yourself. Doing this establishes a veterinary-client patient relationship which is important as your calves get older and if they need other medical help.

Calf scours

Calf scours or diarrhoea can be caused by overfeeding milk or by bacterial or viral infections. Farmers should work with their veterinarians to identify the cause and develop preventative programmes. Diarrhoea in calves results in the loss of water and electrolytes (sodium, bicarbonate, chlorine and potassium). Scouring calves can lose 10 to 12% of their body weight in water loss. These imbalances must be corrected quickly or the animal can die. Depending on the severity of the diarrhoea and dehydration, calves may need to receive an oral electrolyte solution once daily or as often as four times a day.

Grazing and water important for rumen development

For the first part of its life, a calf functions as a simple-stomached or monogastric animal. At birth, the first three components of the stomach–the rumen, reticulum and omasum–are undeveloped and do not help in digesting feed. When the calf starts to graze and drink water, the rumen starts to develop.

Weaning calves

Calves can be weaned from milk when they are eating between 680g and a 1kg of starter feed per day for three days in a row. Some calves can be weaned at four weeks of age, whereas others may be up to ten weeks old. Calves can be weaned from milk at once, or gradually over three to seven days.

Source : New Era