A lot of us might be starting or preparing to start, for the spring calving season. It’s always good to prepare your operation for this exciting time by putting together a plan, checking the forecast each night, along with gathering the supplies and equipment, that will be needed at calving time. 

Having all the essential items ready, in a “Calving Kit” to grab at any time of the day, can help the cattlemen deliver calves in a timely matter. It’s easy to be excited about this time of year, but can lead to disaster if one’s operation is not prepared.

Before the calving season starts, do a walk-through of your pens, chutes and calving stalls. Make sure that all are clean, dry, strong, safe and functioning correctly. Lighting can be very helpful in this area. Having to fix, repair or make up a pen at the last minute could cost you precious time when helping cattle calve. Use clean bedding to bed the calving area prior to calving time and maintain it throughout the calving season.

It is a lot easier to do this on a sunny day rather than at dark, some night just before you have to get in a cow that is needing assistance.

Develop a plan of what to do, when to do it and who to call for help if there is an abnormal presentation of the calf, along with phone numbers.

Make sure all family members or hired hands are familiar with the plan. It may help to write it out and post copies in the right places of the house or barn.

Calving Plan:

1. Watch closely and be ready to assist on first calf heifers for one hour after water bag or feet appear.

2. On mature cows, monitor for 30 minutes after the water bag or feet appear.

3. Always check presentation of the calf if you think there might be a problem by palpating the cow or heifer.

Who to call:

1. Veterinarian office and cell number.

2. Family members and hired hands cell numbers.

3. Neighbors phone numbers that you can always count on.

A stockman should put together a calving kit that has everything in it that might be needed.

The calving kit is effective for making sure you are prepared without the stress of looking for all the items one might need to help pull a calf.

Items and equipment for a basic kit are: long plastic gloves, disinfectant, lubricant, obstetrical chains or straps, two O.B. handles, mechanical calf pullers and warm water.

Plus, an old plastic cup from the convenience store – use this to dip water from the bucket to clean up the cow. Also have a bottle of iodine solution and string that can be used to treat navels of newborns shortly after birth. This helps protect the calf from outside pathogens by sealing and drying out the umbilical cord. Many different lubricants can be used but one of the best lubricants is probably the simplest: non-detergent soap and warm water. Also, don’t forget the simple things like a good flashlight and extra batteries and some old towels or a roll of paper towels. Other items that might be included are a calf feeding tube, notebook and pencil along with calf tags, markers, buttons and a tagger. Don’t forget a bristle brush for cleaning up your equipment so everything is ready the next time you need it.

 It will be helpful to have all these items packed into a 5-gallon bucket or stainless steel pale to make up the “calving kit” so you can grab everything at once.  Place this bucket in a location that can be found and reached by everyone in the operation. Even the little ones enjoy running to the house or ranch office to grab the calving kit.

It’s best to be prepared for all situations and having everything planned out, and knowing what to do and when to do it helps everyone stay calm in what could be a heated time. Animals know when their handlers are nervous, so staying calm can be very beneficial. There are a wide variety of additional products available to make life easier for cow-calf producers at calving time. Perhaps the best information source regarding what works best for your situation is your local veterinarian. A vet might have a list of additional items to add to your “Calving Kit.” Don’t put off now what needs to be done before calving season starts. This will help to insure you as cattlemen, to have everything ready and in place when assisting a heifer or cow during the calving process.