30 Oct 2015 by Meg Walters
Indoor Vs outdoor calving
In October and November we have a small block of cows calving, about 25 in total. In previous years this calving period starting in mid November and ran up until Christmas, but we have been trying to bring the date backwards so that calving actually starts in Autumn, rather than winter!
This year the calving started in mid-October, and unseasonally warm, dry weather has meant that the first 7 calves were born outside. The paddock they calve into opens directly onto a handling system, so heaven forbid they need assistance, we can get them into a safe working zone relatively quickly.
The calves born outside have the benefit of ample fresh air, lots of running space and access to grass, starting their guts working in a very natural way. The downside is that the dark evenings mean that problems are not easy to spot, and that has the potential to spell disaster for mum and baby if symptoms are missed. Luckily we have a team of very experienced stockmen here and so far, that has not been an issue.
The mild dry weather couldn't last forever though, and the rain, fog and cold has descended, meaning that the cows and their babies have had to come in.
The cows were glad to come in, charging into their deep straw beds and getting stuck into their silage straight away.
Although we like calving outdoors, it's not worth jeopardising calf health in bad weather. They came in just in time, we had a breech calf (backwards) which needed assisting- and this would have been much harder out in the field. Maybe things happen for a reason. Mum and baby are fine, despite his undignified entrance to the world!
The maternity shed has been designed with ventilation in mind, the cows are relaxed, the calves have ample space to zoom around, and internal hay racks encourage the calves to start nibbling on meadow hay while their mums tuck into the silage.
It's not quite the same as being outdoors but it's as good as we can get it, and safer for mums and babies- and that's what it's all about. Welfare has to come first, and the cows look happy, would you want to be lying in the mud and the rain with a newborn?!
Author: Meg Walters