2013-04-11 / Ag News

The Record’s Ag Report

By Terri Lang

April 8, 2013

Thirty to forty years ago, veterinarians and farmers were having to pull a lot more calves from their cows during birthing.

“There is a lot less diffi- culty with calving because of the genetics in the livestock industry,” Veterinarian Dr. Lyle Kenner of Northern Veterinary Service said.

Kenner said cows are now bigger and thus have more room for the calf to emerge.

“Over time, farmers have also selected bulls for easier calving,” he said.

Years ago, when exotic breeds were introduced, the bulls had very large frames, and the cows were smaller. Kenner said the average weight of a Hereford cow may have been about 1,000 pounds, compared with today at an average of 1,300 to 1,400 pounds. That is an increase of 30 to 40 percent.

With that, the birth weight of calves has also dropped. A birth weight of 110 pounds was frequent years ago for certain breeds, and now 80 to 90 pounds is common for those same breeds.


Northern Veterinary Service Technical Assistant Michelle Warren and Veterinarian Dr. Lyle Kenner assist customer Mark Vander Vorste choose vaccines for his livestock herd. Northern Veterinary Service Technical Assistant Michelle Warren and Veterinarian Dr. Lyle Kenner assist customer Mark Vander Vorste choose vaccines for his livestock herd. The challenge for livestock producers was having the same growth rate with the birth weights being reduced. Kenner said that also has been accomplished.

“Now, we are getting higher growth rates without the calving difficulty,” he said.

Another change Kenner has noticed since he has been in the Linton area is most producers’ busy calving season is now April through May.

“In 2006, the majority of farmers had cows calving in March and April, and now April and May are the busy months,” Kenner said. “The winter weather conditions drove that.”

This year’s winter weather conditions have been fair, but with the colder temperatures, Kenner said newborn calves are somewhat bigger this season.


Darnell Silvernagel of Strasburg transported his cow to Northern Veterinary Service on Wed., April 3, as he noticed the calf’s hind legs were coming out first. Darnell Silvernagel of Strasburg transported his cow to Northern Veterinary Service on Wed., April 3, as he noticed the calf’s hind legs were coming out first. “Long, cold winters tend to give us bigger calves,” he said. “Livestock have a higher feed intake with colder temperatures.”

For newborn calves during the colder winter seasons, Kenner said bedding is very important for them.

“Straw bedding can keep those little calves nice and warm, and that is crucial,” he said.

During cold weather, a calf’s system begins to become cold and their metabolism goes down. Their desire to nurse also then declines. If the calf does not nurse soon after birth, it may need to be force-fed through a tube.


Dr. Kenner wraps a chain around the calf’s hind ankles and uses the calf puller to deliver the calf. Dr. Kenner wraps a chain around the calf’s hind ankles and uses the calf puller to deliver the calf. Important signs that the newborn calf is healthy are to see the calf standing, walking and nursing. If the calf appears to be lethargic, it probably will not want to nurse.

Kenner said it is crucial in those first few hours that the calf has nursed and consumed colostrum. The protective immunity against a lot of diseases and bacteria comes from colostrum. Calves consume the antibodies in colostrum through nursing. If they do not receive colostrum, there are supplements available that should be given.

Proper vaccinations for disease control for newborns are also vital. Kenner said Vision 7 is a common vaccine that covers seven different clostridial diseases.

Kenner also pointed out how important it is that livestock consume the proper amounts of calcium.

“Nutritional deficiency is an issue,” Kenner said. “More calcium in their diets is needed.”


During the first few minutes of the newborn’s life, its breathing was deep and heavy. Dr. Kenner said when calves come out backwards, breathing is difficult, and he gives them a shot of Dopram to help them breathe. During the first few minutes of the newborn’s life, its breathing was deep and heavy. Dr. Kenner said when calves come out backwards, breathing is difficult, and he gives them a shot of Dopram to help them breathe. Kenner said blood tests have indicated a calcium deficiency in livestock in the area. He noted a lot of the diets are border line or deficient in calcium intake.

Alfalfa hay is high in calcium; however, with the low supply of alfalfa hay, some farmers are substituting corn, oats, barley and wheat.

”Although those are high in energy, they are low in calcium,” he said.

Kenner said there is a variety of mineral supplements available that can bring calcium levels up in the feed rations.

Overall in this area, Kenner said livestock are pretty healthy.

“Most farmers take very good care of their herds and take a great deal of pride in their livestock,” Kenner said.

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