What to do when calving in a drought?

Uncategorized May 11, 2021

This year I have observed a drier weather pattern in the growing season in many parts around the world, this is defined as drought. This may have impacted you in your environment or you may have heard of it.

It is particularly a problem when we have a drought during our calving season. Why is it an issue when calving in a drought? Well, as it may be obvious, we have a lack of forage.

What it ends up happening is that we start to rotate our calving cows trying to graze the small amount of forage in each paddock. And even if we move them slowly, which requires a lot of attention and care, we still can end up with calves left behind.

This is so common that having a percentage of calves lost or left behind is considered normal by many ranchers and farmers.

I can relate to that… Many years ago, when I did not know the best way to manage this situation, I left for the weekend and had someone else move the calving herd to a new paddock in their rotation. When I came back on Monday, I asked if there were any new calves and was told that there were only 3 but I found a cow bellowing without a calf which I thought was strange. I looked for the calf and could not find it anywhere. Tuesday evening the calf finally came out of its hiding place in the original paddock where they were on the weekend. He was finally reunited with his Dam and all was well. However, the risk is too high because newborns depend on milk for hydration and 2 days without milk can spell disaster. This is also the time where predators make their move as the cow is not there to defend the calves.

You may think, one calf is not that big of a problem, but I have observed tens of calves lost this way on larger ranchers where they keep rotating the cows when calving. As movement draws movement, when a cow that has just calved sees the rest of the herd move to the next paddock it will follow the herd and leave her calf behind. Some ranchers leave the gates open for two or three days to allow the cow to go back for her calf but sometimes the previous paddock will be too far away, and she may not be able to go back.

Now, you may think, well I could solve that problem by just feeding them hay, right? Well, the problem with this is that when you do this, cows will compete for the supplement or hay when it is being fed, leaving their newly born calves behind. So, we still have the same problem. Furthermore, the new mothers may get confused as there will be many new calves on the ground each day. A cow may claim another cow calf and leave hers effectively orphaned.

I have seen these two situations happening many times in different ranches or farms, so what can we do about it?

In my online course, Optimal Calving Season, I go in very much detail on how to manage these kinds of situations to maximize profitability.

Today I would like to share with you a simple but very important tip that you can implement.

What you do is plan to defer from grazing enough paddocks early in the growing season, since first green up, so that in the event of less moisture than expected, you still have enough forage for your calving cows for the extent of their calving season.

Now, if you did not plan for this or the drought is so severe that there is not enough grass for all your cattle, it is convenient to reserve your grass for your calving cows and feed stored forages to the rest of your cattle. If grass is scarce, it is wise to distribute your calving cows in smaller groups, so they do not need to be rotated much and they can calve unmolested. This way they can bond with their calves.

By having enough forage for the calving cows for the duration of your optimal calving season you can ensure a happy calving season where problems are kept to a minimum.

Click here if you would like to be added to the waitlist for the Real Wealth Ranching courses including: Optimal Calving Season - 3rd Pillar.


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