Kansas State Research and Extension is bringing its calving school to McPherson on Dec. 13.

According to McPherson Extension Agent Shad Marston, McPherson County ranchers manage around 65,000 cows with herds ranging from 20 to more than 1,300 head of cattle.

"Our goal is for the producers to be better prepared for calving season," Marston said. "...The purpose is to increase knowledge, practical skills and the number of live calves born."

The program is taking the place of the annual cow/calf school normally held in January or February.

"Each year, we try to change the topics up a little bit," Marston said. "...It's an excellent program no matter what level you're at."

Using a life-size demonstration cow and calf, A.J. Tarpoff, DVM, MS, will speak about the normal calving process as well as tips on handling difficult calving situations.

"(Tarpoff) can take the top off of and there's a calf inside. He takes the calf pullers and pulls the calf from the cow," Marston said.

The calving school will include discussion about timelines for a natural birth, which can vary depending on how many calves a cow has had.

"Normally cows, especially if they've had calves before, have a routine," Marston said.

In contrast, heifers having their first calf often don't know how to lay down and push.

Tarpoff will also speak about how to examine the cow to determine how a calf is positioned during the birthing process.

"We can easily have a foot back, have a backwards calf or have a calf that's too big," Marston said.

Knowing what to look for in calving can aid ranchers in making a judgment call of when to help the cow out — or when to call in a veterinarian — and ensure their investment in the care and feeding of a cow pays off.

"There are just some things that are out there that can put a damper on a calf crop," Marston said.

Calf health tips — especially what to do just after calf is born — will also be a focus of the calving school. Keeping a calf warm, getting it dried off and making sure they get colostrum in their systems right away are essential to its survival.

"That first 24 to 48 hours are critical to getting those calves up and going," Marston said. "...To get them off to a good start is very beneficial."

Dr. Twig Marston, beef nutritionist with Hubbard Feeds will also speak at the calving school. The event will feature booths showcasing local sponsors from the feed, livestock equipment, veterinary and other related fields.

The Kansas State Research and Extension calving school will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the McPherson County 4-H Building, 710 W. Woodside. Admission is free. A KC Strip steak dinner will be held at 6 p.m.; tickets are $10 and must be reserved before noon Dec. 7 by calling 620-241-1523 or emailing tregehr@ksu.edu.