Calving times varies from operation to operation, although a popular option is calving in the winter (January to March) because it does not interfere with planting or harvesting seasons. Organization and a steady AI or breeding program are essential to have a successful and reasonably short calving season.
Pregnant cows that are near giving birth should be moved to a location near a calving barn or area where they can calve easily when needed. Cows should be checked every couple hours to see if they are in labor. Once it is noticed they are in labor, typically restless behavior, and tail outstretched behind her are early signs, she gets moved into a pen or area where she can give birth. Frequent and continual checks will need to be made to see how birth is progressing and if the cow or calf needs additional assistance.
The act of labor and delivery combined averages about less than 8 hours. The birthing process is broken down into 3 stages. The first is the prepatory stage, where light contractions start and the body opens up to help move the calf down the birth canal. The second stage is delivery, with full on contractions, straining, and hopefully a successful birth. The third stage is cleaning the calf, and passing the afterbirth.
Calves typically come out front feet first, and average around 70 lbs. If calves are bigger, or try to come another direction, there could be issues. Sometimes calves need to be manually turned using an obstetric chain. In some cases, a calf puller is needed to assist getting the calf out. Keep your veterinarian’s phone number on speed dial in case there are issues where medical assistance are needed.
After it’s born, the calf needs to be cleaned immediately by its mother. This not only stimulates the calf to breath and gets blood circulating, but it removes excess moisture to help them regulate temperature. Keep an eye on the new family after the calf is born to make sure the mother recognizes and accepts the calf. In winter months especially, it is important to make sure calves have a warm and dry place to bed down. Calves should suckle their mother within a couple hours of birth to get the colostrum that will help fortify them with protein, vitamins, and antibodies to help them grow strong.
Hall, John B. “The Cow-Calf Manager.” Virginia Cooperative Extension
Hanawalt, Kent. “Intro to Calving.” Montana Cowboy College
“When Should I Calve My Cows?” Manitoba.ca