SPRING IS normally calving time, but on small blocks calves can arrive all year round if you own a bull. Always have calving gear ready, along with your vet’s contact number.
Early veterinary assistance is required if there’s no progress 30 minutes after a calf’s feet are showing. Vets don’t like being called hours after willing helpers have failed - call early.
Cows suckling more than one calf produce a lot of milk and need extra feed, including concentrate supplements, especially if you want to get them back in calf within the normal season. Check their teats for damage from calves’ teeth, and watch for swollen, red and hot quarters not being suckled, as it could be mastitis. Suckled calves should be growing well, in excess of 1kg/day.
Bull calves need to be castrated with rubber rings before six weeks of age. The market for weaner bulls is usually better than steers, but don’t run bulls for beef on a small block as even young weaners to rising yearling bulls will get cows (and their female calves) pregnant, despite their small size.
Once the grass is growing well, dairy weaners should gain at least 1kg/day without meal. Meal is costly so should only be fed if needed. If young stock are not thriving, contact your veterinarian. If young stock are scouring, talk to your vet before buying drench (oral or pouron), as the problem may not be worms. Also check what vaccinations calves will need, eg, blackleg and possibly lepto.
Bull sales start in October in the North Island so sort out what you may need for the herd. Consider leasing before buying, as bulls on small blocks are always a hazard. Any breeding bull needs a yearly vet check before going out into the herd.
Artificial insemination is an option, but if you go through your vet it can be expensive as it may involve hormone treatment and visits to get cows to cycle before insemination on a specific date. If you use an AI contractor, you’ll have to be good at heat detection to know when is the best time to inseminate. Get advice from your AI supplier (or cattle farming neighbour) before mating starts.
Do not drench mature cattle for worms, despite what the adverts and product promotions say. Avoid using pour-ons on young stock as a routine in the assumption that they need regular worm treatment, as this is now the major cause of the increasing drench resistance in cattle, as with sheep.