The spring calving season is upon us. The last 30 to 45 days are an important time of preparation for both the cow and the cattleman. Nutrition and good cow body condition are very important to the health of the newborn calf.
How many times have you heard someone say. "Ya don't want to get those cows fat before calving, you'll have more problems with them calves. You better quit feeding those cows so much?" Well not only are these folks wrong, but they're dead wrong! Dead calves that is. A great deal of research has examined the effects of under feeding during the last 30 to 45 days before calving. Cows and heifers in good body condition have healthier more vigorous calves. Research has demonstrated that calves from heifers in body condition score of five or six stood sooner and nursed earlier than calves from thin heifers. Calves from well nourished cows also can generate more heat from their body fat which helps them withstand the cold. In studies done at Virginia Tech, University of Kentucky, and Tennessee, feeding inadequate amounts of energy to cows during late gestation increased the number of calves that died within 24 hours of birth. In addition, cows that were underfed during late gestation lost more calves from birth to weaning. Calves from cows underfed during late gestation are more likely to die from calving problems, exposure, starvation or scours than calves from well fed cows. Heifers that calve in good body condition have less or similar calving problems as thin heifers. Researchers report that heifers are more likely to have calving difficulty because heifers simply "run out of steam" during labor when they aren't fed well. So underfeeding cows and heifers during the last 30-45 days before calving will result in a reduced calf crop at weaning. A reduced calf crop means less calves to sell and thus less cattle income.