Is there anything better than watching baby calves kick up their heels in the sunshine? For us, it’s one of the favorite things we see on the farmscape.There’s no doubt that young farm animals are just plain cute, but we also know from a herd health standpoint that calves who race around with tails straight up in the air are feeling good.
It’s fun to watch the antics and energy of little ones, and reassures us that all is well. We breathe a sigh of relief, for we know from prior experience that treating sick calves can be an uphill battle.
While we try to do all we can promote health, occasionally an issue arises. Any calf who doesn’t join in the fun is one we observe. Body language like a head down or back hunched can be the first indication of trouble. We note the tag or any distinguishing traits so that we may continue to check up on the calf as needed. We watch for loose stools, nasal discharge, cloudiness or discharge in the eye, or injury. Sometimes a calf improves by itself, but sometimes treatment is needed.
Livestock behavior must also be considered in the context. Like all babies, sometimes the calves just need a nap. In the middle of the day, flat napping calves is not cause for alarm. However, there are times when this body position signals a very serious problem. It’s one of the reasons that we aim to be diligent in observing our herd – we never want to see a flat calf who is not happily napping, but rather might be fighting serious dehydration or high fever or worse.
Whatever the problem, we address it accordingly, whether that means administering electrolytes, a dose of antibiotics, or whatever our veterinarian might recommend. Now that our cows are done calving, we’re relieved and grateful to have had very few health issues.
All of this is common sense to the cattlemen (and women) in Nebraska and across the nation. There’s a culture of having great respect for livestock and doing whatever possible to encourage a healthy environment for the herd. It might mean battling Mother Nature during bitter winter weather. It often includes waking up several times during the night to check on heifers and cows who are about to calve. It’s exchanging ideas with neighbors and family who also raise cattle. It means having the veterinarian’s phone number memorized.
Now that I think about it, maybe there is something better than seeing healthy calves kick up their heels in the sunshine. It’s watching my boys enjoy the sight as much as their Dad and I do.
Here are a few more beef cow/calf photos in early April. Most of these calves were born in February, but overall, the birthdates ranged from January to March. Cows are first and second year heifers.