Students of Agriculture
Well, the good weather stretch we were so excited about last time we spoke has finally broke. We are going on day two of rainy, chilly May weather. Days like these are best spent in comfy pjs with coffee in hand at the kitchen table chatting with you. Today, my fellow co-op members, Tricyn and Alli, want to share what they recently learned at a calving clinic and beef quality assurance recertification class this week. Let’s take a stroll back to Tuesday, when the temperature was in the 80s and the sun was shining high. ______________________________________________________________________
Authored by Alli Hamilton
I work off the farm as an 8th grade math teacher and summer break officially started Wednesday afternoon! With that being said, I haven’t “taught” anything for a few days so luckily for you, you get to be my class for a minute. First off, beef quality assurance is a certification many of us have in the cooperative. This certification is attained with training on the best husbandry practices for the cattle herd. This includes record keeping, handling practices, and herd health.
Secondly, the BQA was combined with a calving clinic with Dr. Schuenemann from Ohio State University. He was a wealth of knowledge on best practices for the farmer who needs to intervene when a cow is experiencing trouble calving. It is never preferred to pull a calf, but just as intervention is sometimes necessary with humans, it’s the same for our cattle. Dr. S explained all the steps in the calving process and what is normal progression vs signs that assistance may be required. Calves should be born with the front feet and nose first. If the calf is in this position usually it can be born naturally unassisted unless the calf is very large. In this case the shoulders or hip bones could become stuck. We learned that if the shoulders are the issue, bring one shoulder forward to create a more narrow calf to pass the birth canal. If the hips are the issue, a 90 degree turn of the calf will help the hips to slide past those of the cow.
When calves are breech, or backwards, (like babies) they can still be born naturally, but the farmer must be aware of all stages of the cow’s labor to know if intervention will be necessary. When it is determined that the calf is indeed backwards, intervention is the best scenario for the cow and calf. It is important at this point for the farmer to be able to easily identify front legs from back legs as the calf is starting to be born. It’s not always as easy as it may seem, so this was covered in depth at our training.
In the pictures you will notice the demo calf has chains attached to the hoofs. This is because of the amniotic fluid that is very slimy and, therefore, the farmer cannot get a grip good enough to pull the calf out. We learned at the calving clinic that better placement of the chains and a double loop reduce pressure on the legs. Again, just as with human birth, sometimes tools are needed to aid in a safe and healthy delivery.
Tricyn and I were both pleasantly surprised at the amount of knowledge we and the other co-op members already had with the calving process. (after all she is a veterinarian). We were also surprised, however, at a couple common sense practices we had not thought about. Even when you think you know what you are doing, and do it to the best of your ability, there’s always room to learn more.