You will need clean, dry, warm areas for your new babies, especially in cold and wet weather. Winter can make it especially difficult to monitor young animals’ health status, and bringing them inside may be necessary. While cattle are hardier than sheep and goats, calves are still susceptible to the cold. Having areas sheltered from the wind and bedded with clean, dry straw can help protect your valuable young stock. Remember to re-bed between animals to avoid the potential for disease spread.
Preparing for Birth
Be prepared for difficult births by keeping some equipment on hand. Supplies such as lubricant, obstetrical sleeves, antiseptic, obstetrical chains and handles, thermometers, nipples and bottles, and latex gloves can be lifesaving. Depending on the species you raise, create a checklist to fit the needs of your farm or ranch.
Feeding After Birth
After your animals give birth, it may be beneficial to supplement with a colostrum booster, especially during difficult weather. Keeping frozen colostrum or colostrum replacer on hand is important in an emergency. Providing fresh water and feed is important to keep your cows, ewes, and does healthy.
Post Birth Care
After your calves, kids, and lambs are born, monitor them for colostrum intake. Colostrum provides important antibodies that protect babies from disease. After the first 24 hours of life, a newborn’s intestines cannot absorb antibodies. Make sure they nurse and get the colostrum they need.
In cold weather, provide additional heat sources. For kids and lambs, a heat lamp may be the easiest option. Make sure to monitor it often to avoid fires. For larger animals such as calves, providing a calf coat or earmuffs can protect against hypothermia and frostbite.
If you are dealing with a difficult birth, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian. Time is important in dealing with difficult births for the mother and baby. Check out additional resources below for considerations on winter births and equipment checklists.
Drovers – Preparing for Winter Calving
UNL – The Importance of Colostrum to a Newborn Calf
OSU – Help Lambs Beat the Winter Chill