Cow calf in pasture

Calving in clean areas should reduce the risk of disease. Producers may consider calving on corn stalks, pastures or even on cover crop fields.

Late winter may bring the start of new life to farms, but with it comes mud and the possibility of trouble for cows and calves.

Mud and respiratory disease involve a good deal of management, says Denise Schwab, Extension beef specialist with Iowa State University in Vinton, Iowa.

Pregnant cows are going to need more energy than usual, so body condition needs to be closely monitored.

“Walking in the mud is going to drain her energy, and the muddy coat will also require more energy to stay warm,” Schwab says. “Make sure you are getting more energy into those cows. It’s going to be a bigger concern than protein.”

Foot rot can also be a concern for cows in wet and muddy conditions, she says. Producers need to watch for lameness and treat any issues immediately.

The mud becomes an even bigger concern when calving, says Grant Dewell, Iowa State University Extension beef veterinarian.

He says cows should be vaccinated for scours at roughly four weeks prior to calving. The mammary glands start concentrating antibodies about two weeks ahead of the calf’s birth.

Dewell says cows that have not calved after 60 days may need to be re-vaccinated. Calf viability should also be determined in the first few days after birth.

“Mud is going to sap the energy from a calf,” he says. “If they don’t get up and move right away, the colostrum intake is going to be lower and you are going to have more issues.”

Schwab says calving in clean areas should reduce the risk of disease. Producers may consider calving on corn stalks, pastures or even on cover crop fields, she says.

“Cows are always shedding pathogens. You want to avoid that as much as possible,” she says.

Some producers may sacrifice a pasture for calving and rebuild it in the spring, she says.

“A lot of people were grazing pretty late, so pastures are likely going to be behind this spring,” Schwab says. “You won’t want to be on them too early.”

Clean and dry bedding should be a priority for cows that calve in dry lots. Schwab says creating an easy path to feeders and water tanks also lessens the energy drain for cows.

Dewell says if colostrum quality is good, there is no need to vaccinate calves.

“If they didn’t get much colostrum, you may need to look at supplementing that,” he says. “For the most part, if you are working in a clean area, you are going to break that cycle and things should work out pretty well.”

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.