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Calving kit preparation for cow-calf producers

Calving season, whether it is in the spring or the fall, is a critical time for every cow-calf operation. Being prepared is essential for success when assisting cows and calves when they need help. Having everything you need together in a kit can save precious time and prevent frustration in a stressful situation.

Calving essential components

These lists include essential items to have on hand for going into the calving season. Collect them at least four weeks prior to the date the first calf is expected.

Items to include for pre-calving

  • The farm veterinarian’s phone number: Don’t be afraid to use it if needed!
  • Warm clothing: Bibs and a coat are recommended so you can take off the coat and have your arms free to assist with calving but still be warm.
  • Headlamp - A great light is often underappreciated. Don’t skimp on this one. A hands-free light is preferred.
  • A restraining device: This is for the cow’s safety and yours. A halter works well. Tie it down low so that the cow can lie down. A chute is good for examinations but awkward if the cow goes down.
  • Disinfectant: Use udder wash diluted in warm water or a suitable iodine preparation to wash the plastic gloves and cow’s vulva. Cleanliness is critical to prevent post-calving complications for the cow and the calf.
  • Long plastic gloves (OB sleeves): Wear these when examining the cow to protect you and the cow. If these are not available, be sure to wash your hands and arms thoroughly, keeping all materials as clean as possible.
  • A pail for warm water.
  • Clean towels and paper towels.
  • Lubricant: Use a veterinary OB lubricant. Don’t let it freeze. There are also dry types of lubricant available. This might be the most important item in your kit. You will use this liberally when you need to, so keep plenty of it available.
  • Calf puller (calf jack) to assist with difficult births. This can be a dangerous tool if used incorrectly. Make sure to talk with your veterinarian about the best way to use a calf jack.
  • OB chains plus two handles: Put one loop above the dewclaw and the other below the dewclaw. Use one chain for each leg. Put the large link on top of the foot, so the pull is on the topside.
  • Iodine (7%) and scissors for the navel cord.
  • Dental floss to tie off navel cord if it won’t quit bleeding.
  • Clean straw to tickle the nose.

Items to include for post-calving

  • The farm veterinarian’s phone number.
  • Calf warming box or coats.
  • Colostrum: Have a supply of fresh, frozen or commercial colostrum available for calves: You may need to give colostrum to calves from heifers, thin cows, cows with large teats, cows with twins, cows with premature calves, cows with uterine prolapses, or from cows who have difficult or cesarean deliveries.
  • Nipple bottle and esophageal feeder to ensure that the calf gets colostrum. Try the nipple bottle first but make sure that at least 2 to 4 quarts of colostrum are given to the calf within 6 hours after birth.
  • Calf claim products: Grain, calf claim products, dog, etc.
  • Syringes and needles: 3-10 cc and 18 gauge x 1” for calves, 16 gauge x 1.5” for cows (IM).
  • Tags and marker, tagger, record-book and pencil.
  • Castration bander.

Items to include in your medicine cabinet

These items are recommended in every medicine cabinet

  • Thermometer: One of the best tools for diagnostics. If you call your veterinarian, their first question likely will be: what is the calf’s temperature?
  • Oxytocin: for milk let down*.
  • Penicillin: Penicillin given at any dose other than the labeled dose of 1 ml/100 lbs. requires a veterinary prescription*.
  • Long acting systemic antibiotic*.
  • Medication to reduce inflammation and pain (Meloxicam, flunixin meglumine)*.
  • Sulfamethazine tablets for treating coccidia in calves at least 3 weeks old*.
  • Electrolytes: Dehydration is the biggest enemy for calf scours and oral electrolyte products are our best defense.
  • Probiotic.
  • Vitamin B complex.

Discuss with your veterinarian

Ideally, you would discuss these items with your veterinarian as some of these medications can be specific to certain regions or operations based on history and nutrition. These items are not necessary for all cattle operations.

  • Vitamin E & Selenium*
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A & D

The following items should be included for producers who are comfortable with IV administration of medications and epidural administration.

  • 2% Lidocaine: local anesthetic*
  • 23% Calcium Gluconate*
  • 50% Dextrose
  • Hypertonic saline*
  • 0.9% Sodium chloride or lactated ringers
  • IV setup

* These items require prescriptions from your Veterinarian of Record who holds your Veterinary client-patient relationship (VCPR).

Authors: Troy Salzer, Extension educator and Joe Armstrong, DVM, Extension educator, cattle production systems

Reviewed in 2021

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