Spring is here and with it comes spring field work.  Many producers across the country have already begun digging up the dirt and the coming weeks will only demand more of your time in the fields and/or repairing all the things that broke over the winter months.  Keeping equipment in working order, organizing employees, racing the weather, and countless  other random jobs make this one of the most stressful times of the year.  With all these things going on it is not surprising when other parts of the operation lack sufficient attention; such as your calves.

We must never forget that our calves are the future of our dairy operation and losing just one is a serious hit to the check book.  Even in times of uncertain heifer calf pricing and VERY uncertain bull calf pricing; a live, healthy calf is worth far more than a dead or sick one.  Regardless if you are calving two calves a month or two hundred, you can make sure they are getting all they need by implementing a strict protocol and following it.  Written protocols or checklists ensure that even when you’re in a hurry nothing is missed and every animal is taken care of.  Checklists do not have to be fancy and simple protocols are actually preferable as they will more likely be used than complicated ones.  The following is an example of a calf birthing protocol I’ve witnessed in action with very positive results; simply follow each step and check once complete:

Checklist for Calf Birthing

(Calf Birthing Checklist Download)

Good record keeping can make raising calves much more efficient.  By keeping track of every calf individually you avoid the following situations “Which one of these calves was scouring yesterday?” or “Is this calf eating enough per day?”  Ideally, each calf will have its very own ‘calf card’ similar to what doctors use in the hospital to identify patients.  This card should be laminated or stored in a waterproof bag close to the calf so that it’s handy when needed; a card that needs to be found is a card that will not be used!  The following is an example of a calf card.  Each operation should make their own card altered to fit their specific needs.

Calf Card

(Calf Card Download)

Another benefit of keeping these records is that employees or family members filling in for the day will have a clear cut guide to follow ensuring each job is done properly.  Changes to our routine can be difficult to get used to if not outright annoying, but in the end these small changes can make you and your operation more efficient and profitable.  So have a great planting season and keep those calves coming!