Calving: when and how to help

The following is a CattleFACS brochure reprinted with the permission of the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan.  (FACS represents the Saskatchewan livestock industry in advancing responsible animal care and handling practices in agriculture.)

Jean L Clavelle

CALVING: WHEN AND HOW TO HELP

The basis of a cow–calf enterprise is a healthy cow with a healthy nursing calf.  Knowing when and how to help is an important part of responsible calving management.winter calving PIC

A cow or heifer is having difficulty when:
• the cow actively strains for 40 minutes with no progress
• 90 minutes have passed since the waterbag first appeared
• the legs emerge with the surface of the hooves pointing up
• only the head or tail emerges
• an uncalved cow is mothering another calf
• a cow has demonstrated greater than 5–6 hours of anxiety, e.g. walking about, tail extended, apparently looking for something Continue reading

Decking the halls – on the farm

by Kim Waalderbos

For farm kids, there’s one thing that stands between them and their Christmas celebrations – farm chores. That’s right, farm animals take no holidays. However, Christmas day is far from an ordinary day for these Dinner Starts Here bloggers.

For Ontario dairy farmers Justin Williams and Andrew Campbell, Christmas morning starts long before the sun rises while so many others are still snuggled in bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.

“Christmas morning starts at 4:30 a.m. when we wake up and head to the barn for milking,” says Justin, adding that despite the early hour the barn has a festive spirit. “Christmas morning always seems to be more cheerful in the barn.”

Across the province, at Andrew’s family farm, it’s all hands on deck too. “Christmas around here is pretty wild!” says Andrew. With everyone in the barn, chores go by very quickly with some milking cows, some feeding them, and others laying down a fresh bedding of straw. “It’s the chores we do every morning, but because the whole family is out, we get done much faster.” Then it’s in for coffee, breakfast snacks and of course – opening presents.

On Christmas morning you’ll also find sheep farmer Sarah Brien in the barn. “Christmas morning is a busy time,” she says. “I think it is for every family, but especially when you have 150 animals in the barn that you have to feed before you eat, open presents and visit family.”

It’s divide and conquer for Stephanie Campbell’s farm family. “First dad goes out and does his early barn chores in the hen barn while mom and I start to get things ready in the house.” Stephanie squeezes in a trip to town to pick up her Grandma just in time for the family to gather and open presents. Then it’s back to the barn to gather eggs and finish up chores before the extended family arrives for Christmas dinner.

 

“Our chickens still need to be taken care of on Christmas morning, and so they are part of our routine,” Stephanie says. “I have great memories of doing chores around Christmas time because everyone pitches in and helps.”

The wait on Christmas morning for the food and presents is almost unbearable most farm kids will tell you. “My sisters and I would be vibrating with the excitement of Christmas morning being so close,” says beef farmer Scott Snyder. “Overall though, Christmas morning is likely my favorite morning because it is relaxed, filled with family and the atmosphere it creates is just plain peaceful”.

For many farm families, Christmas dinner takes place mid-day. “Because we have to head back to the barn late in the afternoon for another round of milking and feeding cows, we’ll have our Christmas dinner at noon,” says Andrew.

“You don’t really get to take a day off and relax when you farm, but I think everyone would agree that we don’t mind it,” Sarah says.

To follow more in the lives of these Ontario farmers, visit www.dinnerstartshere.ca

Feeding in a Cold Snap

by Jean Clavelle, Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan

(The following is a CattleFACS brochure reprinted with the permission of the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan.  FACS represents the livestock industry in advancing responsible animal care and handling practices in agriculture. )

The critical temperature below which an animal must increase heat production to keep warm (i.e. Eat more energy, reduce performance or use body reserves), is about -20°C for a mature beef cow on maintenance rations IF:

  • She is in good condition (BCS 3.0).
  • She has a dry winter hair coat.
  • She is sheltered from the wind (and rain or wet snow if it is a regular occurrence).
  • She has bedding to lie on.

Anything less than these “ideal” conditions means that the animal will be cold stressed at higher temperatures, -10°C or even 0°C.  coldsnap

However, regardless of condition, cattle need extra feed to get through a cold snap with a minimum amount of stress.  This is absolutely critical for thin or moderate condition cows (BCS 2.5 or less) as they have little or no back fat to keep them warm.

Have your consulting nutritionist or Extension specialist, with information from a laboratory analysis of your feed or a program like Alberta’s CowBytes, balance rations for whatever is considered “normal” winter temperature, e.g. -20°C.  Then be prepared to feed extra energy during cold weather by feeding additional grain or pellets (range or screenings) or even high quality hay.

Remember it takes time for cattle in the early part of winter to adjust to col.  A cold snap in November or December when normal temperature is around -10°C will be felt more severely than a cold snap in January when normal temperature is around -20°C.

Thumb Rule

Increase energy at a rate of 1lb (0.5 kg) grain or pellets for every 5°C drop in temperature at mid-day below -10°C, (or -10°C, depending on your “normal” maintenance ration) to a maximum of 5lbs. (2.5 kg).

For example if the temperature drops overnight from -20°C to -35°C, increase grain by 3lbs (1.5 kg).  If the temperature drops overnight from -10°C to -35°C the cattle need an extra 5lbs (2.5 kg) of grain to help maintain body temperature.

Be careful of any sudden increase in grain.  Make sure that it is spread out so every cow has opportunity to eat.  If temperature drops dramatically, divide the extra grain into morning and night feedings which will get the cows moving around and help avoid over consumption by few.

If a cold snap is anticipated, begin feeding a little extra grain (1 or 2 lbs; 0.5 or 1 kg) a couple days in advance.  Continue feeding reduced amounts of extra grain two to three days after the temperature returns to “normal”.  This will avoid sudden large changes in feed and present a more even flow of energy to the animal.

Watch for Rumen Impaction

Digestion of roughages in the rumen creates heat, which in the summer “goes to waste,” but in Canadian winters becomes an important part of animal maintenance, i.e. it is used to keep the animal warm.

Cattle will tend to sharply increase feed intake in cold weather in an attempt to maintain body temperature.  They may consume more low quality roughage such as straw or chaff, especially if ground or chopped, than they can digest, which could result in rumen or omasal impaction.

DO NOT grind or chop low quality roughages too fine (3/4” or 1” screen max).  It costs money and can create impaction problems.  Feeding extra energy during a cold snap will reduce cold stress, maintain animal condition and reduce potential for impaction.

If you want to see this original CattleFACS brochure go to facs.sk.ca.

 

 

Old man winter is coming – are you and your animals ready?

by Jean L Clavelle

Here in the west, most people feel cheated by this year’s short summer.  Snow arrived early last fall and then stuck around far longer than we all felt it should have this spring.  However, whether we like it or not , winter is fast approaching!  For the average Joe this means blowing out the sprinklers, finding those extension cords, and winterizing your house.  Not only do producers need to do all of those things, they also need to worry about getting their animals ready for winter too.Winter Cows PIC

There are a few key items on producers’ checklist each fall to ensure they optimize herd health and reproduction in the winter.

Continue reading

Innovations protect fruit crops against weather and predator damage

By Lilian Schaer

Charles Stevens in his apple orchard near Newcastle. (Photo by Courtney Stevens)

Newcastle – Damaging weather and predators can mean the difference between a good year and a bad one on the farm. No one knows that better than Charles Stevens, who grows apples and blueberries on his farm near Newcastle, east of Toronto. He’s turned to technology and innovation to protect his apples against hail and frost – and to Mother Nature to help keep his blueberries safe from hungry wildlife. Continue reading

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

by Kim Waalderbos

Winter season on a farm adds a different dynamic to daily chores. Just like we get bundled up for outdoor adventures, the colder temperatures mean farmers must pay extra attention to animals, barns and equipment to keep everything warm and comfortable.

When the thermometer starts to dip, farmers can be found topping up stalls and pens with extra snuggly bedding, adding more food and milk in the pails and feed bunks, or adjusting their barn ventilation to keep fresh – but not cold – air circulating.

Winter on a farm brings with it a need to take extra precautions with the animals living on it – including maintaining comfortable temperatures inside barns on cold, snowy days.

Farm machinery and plumbing isn’t immune to cold weather. When the cold winds start howling there are farmers out thawing frozen water pipes, chipping off stubborn strings to open feed bales, and coaxing along tractors and silo unloaders that aren’t cold friendly. Animals still need to be fed and watered, and possibly milked, despite the temperature outside.

Snow is inevitable in a Canadian winter. For animals that enjoy getting their exercise outdoors on warmer days and frolicking in the snow, farmers will often build windbreaks with trees or wooden fences to keep the wind at bay. Farmers might dress newborn animals up in warm ‘coats’ or add muffs to cover ears to prevent frost bite. Snow is like the gift that keeps on giving as farmers clear laneways with each new dumping of white stuff. Even if schools and offices are closed, farmers still need to get the milk truck, feed truck and other time-sensitive deliveries to and from the farm regardless of weather conditions.

With winter storms comes a higher risk of power outages. On the farm, someone is likely headed out to dig out and hook up a generator in the dark all in an effort to keep water pumps running for the animals, ensure fans, heaters and automatic feeders are on (especially for smaller animals like chickens), and the milk stays cold in the tank.

Once the chores are done, it’s fun to enjoy winter’s wonderland on the farm – whether it’s sledding across fields, building snowmen or other snow-critters, or enjoying a hot chocolate while watching the sun come up over a snow-capped barn with critters nestled warm inside.

The Woes of Heavy Clay

By Patricia Grotenhuis

When you are on a farm, there are good days, bad days, and days that look like they might turn bad but in the end are good.  In a job that is completely dependent on weather, animals, and crops, things do not always go as planned.

I had a several-day stretch recently where I was supposed to be helping my parents take photos of their dairy and veal farm, my brother’s beef farm, and my sister’s sheep farm. The goal was to make a nice presentation that they can use to explain their farming practices to customers.  Things went well at the dairy and sheep farms.  I was happy with the photographs I had taken, and was thinking the hardest part of the job would be selecting my favourites.  Then, I arrived at my brother’s farm. Continue reading

Temperature fluctuations a worry for livestock farmers

By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

This winter we are experiencing unseasonal temperatures and large temperature fluctuations in our area.  People often comment on how variable temperatures can affect their health.  Did you know the same is true for animals? Continue reading

Fall season on the farm

 By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Fall is a great time to be on the farm.  The smells, the colours and the activity of harvest and preparing the seed bed for the winter make every day different. 

After months of work, it is finally time to harvest the crops. The animals born during the winter and spring months are also either ready to be sold, or are strong and hardy for winter.  Everyone waits expectantly for that first frost (now past) that signals the end of the growing season and the start of harvest.  It also serves as a friendly reminder from Mother Nature to begin readying barns for winter.  Continue reading

Power's out!

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Storms have always filled me with awe.  I love sitting, safe and secure, in my house or in the barn while the wind howls around us,  snow or rain coming down with no end in sight.  There is always one big fear with storms, though:  what if the power goes out?

Continue reading