Caring for calves during and after birth

Scott Anderson, Extension Agent

It’s calving season for many across the state. An unassisted delivery of the calf is important, so it is wise to observe the cow from a distance and give her the chance to deliver the calf naturally without your assistance.

After a calf’s feet appear, the cow should be given about an hour to deliver the calf before assisting in the delivery. If feet are not noted after an hour of hard labor, the cow should be examined to make sure the fetus is positioned correctly for delivery.

If there is an abnormal presentation and you wait too long, the calf may not survive.

After delivery, the calf should be sitting up on the sternum in five minutes, attempting to stand in 15 minutes, standing in an hour and nursing in about two hours.

Any calf not responding in this manner should be examined as there may be a problem.

At birth, the calf’s body temperature is elevated. It should then decline to a normal of 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour.

If the calf is not active and shivering, the temperature will continue drop. These calves can get weak and die from hypothermia in as little as one to two hours in wintertime temperatures, even in Texas.

If the calf is unresponsive, breathing irregularly or has blue coloring in its mucus membranes, place the calf in a sitting position to help it breathe.

Use a clean, dry towel to rub the calf aggressively to aid in drying the calf and to stimulate respiration. Stimulate the calf by placing fingers in the ears and nose as well as clearing the mouth and nose to aid in breathing.

BERMUDAGRASS STEM MAGGOT

Bermudagrass is easily the primary forage crop in the country, and not a crop we need to have a new pest. The Bermudagrass Stem Maggot (BGSM) has become a major pest, although many folks may not be aware of it, the Bermudagrass Stem Maggot is not really new anymore. The BGSM first appeared in the U.S. in Georgia in 2010, and quickly made its way to Texas and Brown County by 2015. It is now widespread throughout Central Texas.

BGSM damage looks much like frost damage on your Bermuda. The tips will turn brown and look like they have had a light frost. On infected plants, if you pull the top leaf or two it will slip out very easily, and you can see the damage at the base of these leaves on the stems. This damage is a result of the BGSM fly laying eggs on the bottom side of the leaf, once hatched the maggot will go to the node, burrow itself inside the stem and feed on the vascular tissue, causing death to the top one to three leaves.

What are the treatment options and are they viable? We still do not have a good grasp on actual yield reduction on fields in Brown County, however, Georgia studies have shown yield reductions can exceed 50 percent, so treatment certainly is feasible depending on the stage of growth of your grass, and the intensity of the infestation. Due to the insect having multiple generations during a growing period, control can be difficult. A current recommended treatment consists of two separate applications of a pyrethroid insecticide. The first application should be made seven days following hay harvest. The second application should be made one to two weeks following the first application. If your field has no history of the stem maggot then do not spray. There will be more recommendations for control as we learn more about the insect.

One interesting bit of information about the bermuda stem maggot is that it seems to prefer finer stemmed bermudagrass over those that are more coarse stemmed. Bermudagrass like coastal, common or Alicia will have a higher incidence of infection than Tifton-85. But, this does not mean damage cannot occur in the coarse stemmed bermuda varieties, we saw many infestations in T-85 last year. Like most other insects the BGSM seems to prefer the highly managed irrigated fields. On fields that are being grazed, the BGSM is not such an issue as the cattle will usually remove the top leaves where the BGSM would lay its eggs.