Why it's paramount for calves to have dry spaces

Record levels of snow in parts of the country are putting corrals and pastures in a messy situation as farmers and ranchers deal with the big melt at the same time as calving season.

Cody Creelman with Veterinary Agri-Health Services in Alberta says it’s important cows are in a clean pasture area, with lots of space and dry conditions to decrease the number of pathogens in the calving areas.

“Pathogen contamination is much more likely to happen if those calves are wet," Creelman says. "If they are calving out in muddy conditions, that allows for that oral contamination from those calves eating both the pathogens on their mom’s udder or being out in that environment."

Clear the way

He adds if there is a lot of snow, it’s important to clear that out to increase space.

“The more we can spread those cows and calves out, the better, the more they are kind of all crammed together, it just increases the total amount of pathogen levels that those animals face,” Creelman says.

Clean areas are also very important, which is why it's important to find some clean pasture that hasn’t been overly used for the cows. 

The importance of timing

Trevor Welch has about 30 head pure bred Black Angus herd at his farm near Glassville, N.B., in the west-central area of the province.

They typically calve out in January, which they moved to several years ago.

“Historically, my grandfather and father would start to calve in March, while our spring here is really soggy, muddy and wet," Welch says. "We found that we had a lot of sickness from calves getting scours that sort of thing just because of the yard they are in.”

He says they also like to get the calves moved up on to a slope or open up the barn so they can come and go after they are born to get away from the areas that are soggy and muddy. 

Nutritional needs

Both Creelman and Welch say there is a need to make sure the cows and calves nutritional needs are met prior to calving and after. 

Bottom line

Creating a clear, dry space for birthing helps calves get a strong, healthy start in life.

Article by: Craig Lester