Get Your Equipment Ready for Spring Calving

by Rich Taber

A good squeeze chute makes handling beef cattle much more efficient and safe for both animals and people

A good squeeze chute makes handling beef cattle much more efficient and safe for both animals and people.

Late winter and early springtime are the times to get your beef cattle and your calving equipment ready for spring calving. With our relatively harsh winters, I prefer to have our cows calve no earlier than April, and better to start in May. That way you can avoid the worst of any winter and cold weather issues that might happen. Regardless of when you start calving, you need to have a certain amount of equipment and supplies on hand to get you through this sometimes nerve wracking period. Nothing is worse than needing an item and making a last minute rush to the farm supply store, only to find they are out of what is you need. “Oh, we can order it, and it will be in, in three weeks”, is commonly heard. So prepare well ahead of season. The following list was adapted from the website Space limits
how much discussion we can add for each item; suffice it to say that if you have most or all of these items on hand you should be in good shape.
Here are the must-haves for a successful calving season: 

  • Ear tags
  • Markers
  • Tagger (and a spare)
  • Calving book for record-keeping
  • A list for when everything is due and what they are bred to
  • The veterinarian’s number on speed dial
  • Milk tuber
  • Pitcher to milk the cow with
  • Calf boost
  • Syringe
  • Scour pills
  • Bolus gun
  • Duct tape or ear muffs of some sort to pin ears down on cold nights
  • Sled with ropes to pull calves out of the snow and to the barn
  • Calf catch
  • Scale and sling for weighing the calf
  • Calf puller and chains
  • Lasso
  • Halter
  • Plastic gloves
  • Milk replacer, frozen colostrum, and/or powdered colostrum replacements
  • A sedative of sorts for the occasional surly cow that needs milking out
  • A list of potential culls based on poor udders, bad dispositions, tough calving, or old age.
  • Sorting sticks or paddles
  • Small square bales of hay for bedding and feeding when the cow/calf pairs are in the barn
  • Coveralls, gloves, hats, boots, long johns, wool socks, etc.
  • A hot box, heater or place in the basement bath tub for cold calves
  • Clean towels
  • Bander and bands for castration

A good and safe handling system/squeeze chutes to handle cows. Beef cattle are not handled nearly as much as dairy cattle and get quite ornery, and dangerous.  Your vet will also be much more amenable to working on your cows if he or she knows they won’t be risking life and limb when they come to your place.
Rich Taber is Grazing, Forestry, and Ag Economic Development Specialist for CCE Chenango, and is an active beef, sheep, and poultry producer as well. He can be reached at 607-334-5841 ext. 21, or email

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Tara Hammonds

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