Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Building a Calving Bucket

It’s March and most people are looking for spring. For cattlemen, spring means that calving season is approaching. We turn our thoughts to the expectation of seeing the next calf crop safely on the ground. A major part of having a successful calving season is in the preparation that takes place before the calves hit the ground. Besides the major things that effect your calving season (such as using bulls with appropriate birth weights and a defined calving season), there are several ideas to help prepare you. One of those ideas to help during this time is to organize a calving bucket.
I find having a calving bucket very handy because it helps me to be organized and complete jobs more efficiently. My calving bucket is a tote tray with organized sections which makes for easy access and is easy to carry around or store in my truck or barn. Any kind of bucket, tray, or tool box works well. If your cows have a tendency to be curious and get into things that they shouldn't, a tool box is a simple solution. All items in the calving bucket can be purchased at your local farm supply store.
There are several things that should be included in your calving bucket, these will help with the calving process. One of the first items that should be put into your bucket is OB chains and handles. OB sleeves are also great to include to prevent disease transmission between cows and humans. Be sure to include lube in your bucket, this is used when pulling calves. J-lube or any obstetrical lube will work fine. Do not use dish soap or mineral oils to help protect the fetus. A calf catch or a good sturdy hickory cane works well as an extension of your arm to catch calves. Nylon webbing is also a good item to have in order to make a snare to pull a calf.

Items that are used in the management of your herd should be placed in your calving bucket. Ear taggers, ear tags, and a ear tag marker should be included. Another great thing to include in your bucket might be banders and bands (for bloodless castration) if you like castrating those calves when they hit the ground. Syringes and needles might be good to have, if giving any vaccinations. For permanent identification tattoo pliers and ink may be a good thing to add to your bucket. Disposable gloves are great to include to prevent ink staining. If calves have horns or scurs then having button paste and calf dehorners may be a good idea. These tools should be used in meeting practices recommended through BQA (Beef Quality Assurance).
There are several simple items that can be over looked that are useful at calving time. Disposable gloves, paper towels, and non-irritating antiseptic (iodine) to disinfect things. Scissors are good for trimming the umbilical cord and string for tying off the umbilical cord. Be sure to include a flash light with fresh batteries. A pocket knife is always handy to have around as well. One of the most important items that people forget is your calving record book and vaccination sheets. A good cattlemen needs to be a good manager.
An esophageal tube feeder is good to use when a calf has trouble nursing. The number one cause of calf death loss is starvation. IV sets are great for treating cows that have milk fever. To clean mucus from a calves airway after birth use a bulb aspirator, it works great for draining those calves. If you live near a dairy farm and can get some fresh colostrum, it can be stored frozen to give weak calves, or calves who are not able to nurse. If fresh colostrum is not available then a high quality colostrum mix using real milk ingredients can be substituted.
Organizing a calving bucket is a great way to prepare for calving season. A calving bucket makes the calving process easier in the sense that all the tools needed are all in one place. I encourage each of you to build your own calving bucket.

− Daniel Brown
Extension Intern


____ OB Chains & 2 Handles

____ OB Sleeves

____ J-Lube or Powdered Lube Mix

____ Calf Catch

____ Nylon Webbing

____ Ear Tagging Equipment

____ Banding Equipment

____ Syringes & Needles

____ Tattoo Equipment

____ Dehorning Paste (Button Paste)

____ Paper Towels

____ Non-irritating Antiseptic (Iodine)

____ Scissors

____ String

____ Flashlight & Fresh Batteries

____ IV Sets

____ Esophageal Tube Feeder

____ Fresh Colostrum or Colostrum Mix

____ Pocket Knife

____ Bulb Aspirator

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