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Raising Beef Cattle For Dummies

     Should nature be the determining factor when it comes to the birth of calves? Many ranchers believe it is acceptable to intervene and to lend a hand when a heifer is having difficulties on her own. This may end up saving the life of both the mother and her young offspring.

     More often, it is the first time mothers that need the most assistance with giving birth. The labor can last two or three times longer for them. However, complications can arise with any calf birth even if they have been successful with doing it on their own many times in the past.

     Any time that a young calf is being born tail first, there is a need for intervention. This process is one that not everyone has the skills for so a vet may need to be called to the scene. There is limited time to help the calf in such a situation so you need to be able to make quick decisions. What happens is that the calf will start to come out backwards. This process puts pressure on the umbilical cord as it does do.

     Then there is a limited supply of blood going from the mother to the calf. This can result in death or serious brain injury. The calf can also be in the birth canal with fluids around the mouth and nose. They can drown in them if they aren’t taken out of the mother immediately. The calf has to be taken out of the body in under 4 minutes though if there is a chance of it surviving once the blood supply from the umbilical cord has been cut off.

     The young calves will have to be further evaluated. Those that are doing well with their mothers should be left alone other than for checkups and when it is time for vaccinations. Those that are born underweight or that don’t seem to be growing properly may need more one on one care from humans. The goal is to ensure all of the cattle are very healthy regardless of their age.

     Yet it is especially necessary for the young so that serious health problems can be eliminated. If the calf can’t grow to be big and strong it won’t be very good quality of meat. If the calf is female, it may have a very difficult time giving birth when it is fully mature. Every effort should be taken to help pave the way for a healthy life from the very start for all of the cattle.

     What is also interesting is that a difficult birthing experience for a heifer can result in her being less likely to become pregnant in the future. Since you do want all of the females in the herd that are mature to have a calf annually, helping with the birthing process can increase the chances of that happening. There are tools available that can be used to help the calf be born without causing additional stress to the mother.

     Studies show that to prevent calves from being born at night, offer food at that time to the heifers. How this works isn’t really known, but there is enough research out there to indicate it does result in fewer calves being born at night. Since supervision during the calving season is likely to take place during the day, you can reduce mortality rates with this simple but effective trick. Starting this process of night feeding 2 or 3 weeks before calving is to start is a good idea.

     The young calves are the future for any beef cattle ranch. It is important to document the number of births and the number of deaths that occur. Look for patterns if you have high mortality rates. You need to be able to find those contributing factors so that they can be reduced or eliminated before the following calving season. The problem could be with the bulls used for mating, the food sources, vaccines, a virus found on the land where they are at, and even the weather.

     By documenting as much information as you can, you can find those links that result in the calves not surviving. The goal should be to see as many of them growing rapidly and gaining weight consistently. If that isn’t happening with almost all of the calves then there is a serious situation that needs to be reviewed further.

     While a great deal of attention is spent focusing on the calves and the heifers, the bulls also need quality care. They are the males that offer the sperm for the young calves to be created. Genetic testing of these animals is a good idea if you are going to use them to breed a large number of heifers. Ensuring that the bulls aren’t genetically linked to serious health problems is important. Otherwise future generations of cattle can end up with those same genetic problems.

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