Time to drag your calving supplies out and dust them off; it’s that time of year again. Do you have a checklist of what you should have on hand? Some of the most important categories to think about are: calving barn equipment (i.e. pullers, ob chains, sleds, warmers), milk products and bottles (i.e. colostrum replacer, milk replacer, nipples), and electrolytes (i.e. gels, powders, drenches). Other handy equipment includes rubber gloves, ob sleeves, needles, syringes, and iodine. It’s better to be over prepared than under, so make sure to stock up before calving starts!


When it comes to colostrum (or “first milk”), there is no better source for a newborn calf than his mother. Every year, though, there are several cases where calves are either unable to drink their mother’s colostrum or they do not drink enough. In these cases, unless we have a milk cow or stored colostrum from previous years, we resort to dried colostrum products called “replacers” and “supplements.” But what is the difference between a colostrum replacement and a colostrum supplement besides cost? While they vary across brands, typically colostrum replacements have a greater concentration of IgGs (100-150 IgG/dose) vs. supplements (40-60 IgG/dose). Replacements also generally have a higher fat content and added vitamins and minerals. It is often recommended that the first feeding of a new calf, when maternal colostrum is unavailable, be a colostrum replacement, and the second feeding can then be a colostrum supplement. Making sure all calves have access to colostrum within the first 12 hours of life (ideally the first 2-4 hrs) is the most important thing you can do to ensure health and productivity for the rest of that calf’s life.




The best place to start designing your winter feed plan is to start with what you already have. What is the protein content of the hay you plan to feed? What minerals are present in your water? These are important questions when designing the most economical feeding plan for your cows. If your hay is very good then there may be no need to spend money on a protein supplement. If your water is high in sulfur (an essential nutrient but also an antagonist at high levels) you may need to adjust your supplementation to avoid toxicity and ensure that the cows are getting enough copper and molybdenum. The only way to know what you are starting with is by testing. We are happy to report that we can help you collect samples of your forages and water sources and send them in to the lab for you. Once we get the result of the testing, our trained associates can go over the results with you and help make a feeding plan that best suits your cattle’s needs. Testing is a small expense that can save you money throughout the rest of the year, ensuring you are only spending money on feeds your cows will actually benefit from. Give us a call today to find out more! 406-436-2350