Producers adjust their calving time and system to meet their needs. A producer may calve in February and March to avoid the craziness of calving during spring seeding. This comes with infrastructure needs such as a calving barn with maternity pens where it is warm. We calve in April and May to avoid the cold, reduce winter feeding needs of cows in the third trimeter of pregnancy and time calving for when new grass will be starting to grow. This also means we are calving at the same time as seeding – hence the craziness with lots going on in April.
While calving on pasture is fairly simply and straightforward for cows, there are still some infrastructure needs. In particular for heifers having their first calf. They can require more attention, as some need assistance during calving. But even if they calve on their own, it is not necessarily honky-dory.
These first time mothers sometimes claim each other’s calves. In order to calve on pasture and avoid this mis-matching we set up maternity pens with portable windbreaks and panels. The panels are 24 feet, this allows enough time for us to close the gate before they get to the far end and turn around. As heifers start to calve they are put in a pen. They get to bond with their calf before being put back into the larger pasture. If a heifer does not settle into a pen she may calve outside. But that is not usually an issue as there are no other calves around for her to mistakenly claim.
Once the calves are 24-30 hours old they are usually up and about, well bonded with their mothers and can be moved into a different pasture. The two fields are separated by page wire to avoid calves crawling through the fence and getting separated from their mothers. By moving them, this keeps the calving area clean avoiding disease issues.
Every producer will have a slightly different system. This one seems to be working for us at the moment. Happy Calving!