One of our greatest challenges on the Blomme Farm right now is keeping baby calves healthy in this wet, cold weather. Calf scours (diarrhea) are a serious threat that leads to dehydration of the calf and can ultimately be very deadly. In fact, scours are the primary cause of death in calves between 2 and 30 days old. The challenge is two-fold: we keep our cows and calves in barns with constant fresh bedding so they’re sheltered and protected from the cold, wet weather. But being inside together can become a nightmare when rain, snow and cold temperatures persist.
Because old man winter is still hanging around, our pastures are not green yet and are very muddy. In others words, they are not fit for cows and calves to be turned out on. Doing so could do a lot of damage to the grass. But, when our calves started breaking with scours, we had no choice but to move some of them out to pasture to get them out of the barns and in a fresh environment.
It’s always important to make sure every calf is nursing well and getting enough nutrition. But in conditions like we’ve been having , it becomes so critical that each calf is getting enough colostrum as this is the most important part of building a healthy immune system for the calf. My farmer and father-in-law have spent a great deal of time working with calves to make sure they are sucking properly and getting enough milk.
We also spread our cows/heifers and calves out amongst several different barns or locations so we aren’t overcrowding them. Overcrowding can lead to scours or certainly make the problem a lot worse. We also make sure that each area has fresh bedding as much as possible right now in order to minimize the spread of disease. But at some point, all of the fresh bedding in the world can’t stop the spread of scours and we must move them to a different environment, which in our case, is pasture ground whether it’s ready or not.
Every season has its challenges. With the challenges come lots of joy too. Our cattle barns are full of baby calves and our hog barn is full of baby pigs right now. Nothing says spring like babies everywhere . . . even if you have to move snow to get to them!
“God never brings winter without the hope and joy of spring.” – Author Unknown