Calf mortality rate affects quality, price of supermarket buys

US - Many area beef and dairy producers are now in the middle of calving as another winter storm moves across West Central Minnesota, threatening one of the leading causes of calf loss, hypothermia. The health and mortality rate of their calves will directly impact not only their profits but the quantity and quality of beef we buy at the market.
calendar icon 2 March 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Gary Rocholl keeps about 90 beef cows on his ranch north of Fergus Falls.

“You’ve fed that cow all year to get that calf,” he said, “and now you have nothing to show for it. The more calves you can save, the better off you are.”

There are two types of hypothermia: exposure and immersion. Exposure hypothermia is the gradual loss of body heat in a cold environment. This type affects all classes of livestock but particularly affects young, old and thin animals.

Immersion hypothermia is the rapid loss of body heat due to saturated hair coat in a cold environment.

Immersion hypothermia is often brought on during birth when the calf is born saturated with birthing fluids. Other causes include being born in deep snow.

Once born, the calf is immediately at risk of hypothermia.

“You have to get it dried,” he said. “Once they get dried off and get nursing, they’re tough little buggers. But most of the cows have to calve on their own. That’s why most of us will calve in the spring.”

John Mark calves his Limousine cows in the winter, north of Dalton. He has a calving room with three stalls, thickly bedded with straw and with a propane heater available to keep the temperature above freezing.

“I run the heater, if a calf gets too cold,” he said. “I get the mother in a stall behind the calf and lay out an old rug in front of the heater. So far, I’m at 100 percent (mortality), so I guess I’m doing OK. If you get them dried off, all these calves are pretty tough.”

He and Rocholl use off-the-shelf colostrum mix to feed newborns, in case there’s a problem with the calf nursing at its mother.

“They only need that the first couple days,” Mark said.

Source: The Daily Journal
© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.