Setting up for Calving


4 min read

Achieving the best team performance during calving Keeping yourself safe and healthy during calving Pre-calving checklist Calving kits Springer Mobs

Planning and preparing for calving with your farm team will reduce stress when calving is in full swing, and will help keep everyone safe and healthy. Calving is one of the busiest times of the year. Spend time with your team prior to calving to create a plan that works for everyone and the results will follow. Ensure you have everything you need prior to calving to help reduce stress, keep you on track from the get-go, and to create better outcomes for your team and animals.

Achieving the best team performance during calving

To get your team on-board and performing at their best they need to:

  • understand what you are trying to achieve and why
  • understand what is expected of them
  • feel respected and valued
  • have time to recharge so they can maintain productivity on farm

Building a great team

Everything you need to know about management, from setting clear farm goals to motivating, managing and retaining staff.

Find out more

Some simple suggestions to help build the platform for successful calving

  1. Get your team involved - make sure they know why you do things, how you’ll do it together and what you are trying to achieve. Also, work with them to identify injury risk areas on your farm and potential solutions.
  2. Make sure your roster is achievable - Making sure staff have adequate and regular time off to rest and recharge, helps to prevent fatigue which can lead to mistakes or compromise health and safety. If casual or relief staff are part of your plan, make sure you have access to them when you need them. Check out some different types of rosters
  3. Discuss and plan any upskilling your team members will need - this includes introducing new staff to your systems and processes.
  4. Ensure all the appropriate PPE and tools are available for your team - this includes having the right footwear for the job with good grip, support and comfort. Also think about the best equipment to use for calf pickup, and for transferring heavy loads of milk and feed to calves. The reducing sprains and strains page provides good solutions you can implement on your farm to reduce the risk of injury when handling calves. 
  5. Make sure the whole team is eating well - ensure everyone has 3 nutritious meals a day and access to snacks to maintain energy levels.
  6. Share what goes through your head as a manager - create a list of items you need for calving, and daily/weekly tasks to be completed, so everyone can help achieve them.
  7. Hold regular team meetings - 5-minute stand-up meetings are most useful at this time of year so that everyone gets the same message and any minor frustrations can be dealt with. Use a simple agenda of 'what happened yesterday' and 'what’s happening today'. 
  8. Work as a team and lead by example 
  9. Watch for signs of stress and fatigue - this includes in yourself and in your staff. If you do notice any stress or fatigue, be proactive in dealing with it. 
  10. Keep timesheets for all employees - it is good practice, and you can reflect on them later to plan for next season. 
  11. Keep talking, coaching, and providing feedback – celebrate success!

This video outlines some of the key areas to be mindful of during calving and how you can keep yourself and your team safe and healthy over calving.

Keeping yourself safe and healthy during calving

Video 3:17 min

Download this video here.

Pre-calving checklist

  • All team members up to date on farm policies and what to expect during calving
  • Spring rotation planner completed and visible to the team
  • Supplies of metabolics, electrolytes, navel spray etc. on hand or ordered
  • Calf trailer and feeding equipment clean and disinfected
  • Calf shed clean and disinfected and all repairs and maintenance done
  • Designated sick pen set-up
  • Fresh bedding laid in calf shed
  • Calving kit prepared

Calving kits

Well-stocked calving kits will save you making trips between the paddock and the shed. Keep your calving kit at the gate of the springer paddock or in your farm vehicle. Make sure that everyone knows where they are and can access one easily.

Tape a checklist of contents inside the bucket and have a team member in charge of making sure it is restocked regularly.

Calving kit contents

✔ Bucket with a lid to contain kit

✔ Metabolics (Clearly labelled milk fever treatments and starter drench).

✔ 3 calving ropes or chains (Remember to clean after each use).

✔ 2 litre container of lube (A plunger pump is an easy way to dispense lube).

✔ Towel and soap for cleaning hands

✔ Notebook and pencil (A pencil will still work in wet conditions, unlike a pen).

✔ Ear tags or other calf identification system (Pre numbered tags save time and reduce recording mistakes).

✔ Spray paint - red plus another colour (Red can indicate a warning. E.g. withhold milk. Communicate this with staff).

✔ Gloves

✔ Head torch and spare batteries

✔ Iodine spray for navels - pre-mixed with water (Do not use teat dip as an alternative).

✔ Key contact numbers (Vet, manager on laminated sheet).

✔ Calving intervention guide

✔ Food/energy bars

Springer Mobs

The transition period is a significant time for the cow, and how you manage your cows as they prepare to calve can impact on how quickly they recover post-calving. Here’s a few tips to help you set your plan for calving:

  • Draft dry cows into springer mob regularly
  • Check springers often to help identify cows having trouble
  • For cows at or above body condition score (BCS) targets, restrict feeding to 90% maintenance. For cows below BCS targets, continue to feed at 100% maintenance. See feedright for more info on nutrition
  • Avoid high potassium (K) feeds to help minimise down cows – test your springer paddocks over winter to identify suitable paddocks
  • Supplement with magnesium 2-3 weeks prior to calving
  • Ensure appropriate minerals are being provided – develop a plan with your nutritionist or vet according to your farm needs.
Last updated: Sep 2023
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