Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What time of year is best to have calves?

Its mid-autumn and our nine angus-cross heifers are currently calving.  This may seem an odd time of the year to have calves, and certainly in the temperate areas you would expect to see baby calves and lambs in spring, but in the sub-tropics we can do things a bit differently as we don't have a cold winter.  The problem is that cow gestation is around 9 months, so you really don't know what conditions are going to be like by the time the calves arrive.

eight acres: what time of year is best to have calves?

Ideally you want your cows to have their calves at a time when they are going to have plenty of grass to eat to make lots of milk to feed their calves.  In temperate climates, springtime is ideal as spring rains will bring grass and the calves will grow fat over summer.  For us, spring can often be the driest time of year, and summer brings drought, heatwaves, or flooding rain and paralysis ticks. Sometimes we have lots of green grass in summer, but its not reliable.

In the sub-tropics, autumn is cooler, but also tends to be drier.  We find that grass is starting to go to seed, dry out and does not have as much nutrition as green grass.  By winter we've usually had some frost and our tropical grasses are all dead and dried out.  There's really no great time for us to have calves, but autumn is a bit better than other seasons and we always make sure we have hay ready to feed if the grass is too poor.  Of course, all of this is different if you have irrigated forage to feed your cows!

eight acres: what time of year is best to have calves?

With our dairy cows we don't worry so much about the season, as we can help our cows look after their calves.  However, we really have to think ahead 9 months and make sure that we will be available to milk the cow twice daily for at least 6 weeks after she calves.  Again, its difficult to look ahead 9 months and predict whether it will be a good time to have a calf!

One more thing, cows tend to hide their calves in the grass and pretend they don't have a calf.  This can make it difficult to find them!

eight acres: what time of year is best to have calves?

When is the best time to have calves where you farm?

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