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Calving in Wet Conditions

By Melissa Runck, Runck is an Extension Educator-Ag Production Systems with University of Minnesota Extension in Murray and Pipestone Counties.

The past several weeks we’ve had one of the most unique weather patterns in recent years.  While it’s not completely abnormal to see such warm weather in January or February, it is uncommon for it to stick around for as long as it has.  Before we get too accustomed to it though it sounds like Mother Nature is ready to switch things up in the coming weeks.  For those livestock producers that are calving or will be starting to calve in the near future, this change in the weather pattern can be detrimental to both calves and cows.

With abrupt changes in temperature and moisture (think rain, sleet, or snow), it is critical for producers to adjust their management and nutrition program to meet the needs of the cow.  The lower critical temperature (LCT) is the temperature below which an animal has to burn extra energy in order to stay warm.  A cow with a dry winter coat has a LCT around 30 degrees F.  However, cows with a wet coat at even 59 degrees F can experience cold stress.  If extra energy is not being supplied she will begin to burn fat and lose condition in order to keep herself warm (Virginia Cooperative Extension).  

Cold, wet, and/or windy weather conditions can have deadly consequences for young calves, with newborns being the most susceptible to cold stress.  The LCT for dry, clean calves is close to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and just a little rain or snow moves the LCT closer to 70 degrees.  

Calf survival and maternal health can be a challenge to combat when Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate.  Below are strategies to help producers deal with problems in the cow herd that are common when mud and cold weather occur:

• Provide dry, CLEAN, and well-drained bedding for both cows and calves.  Bedding will minimize heat lost from the body, especially for calves.   This is critical as young calves will spend about 80% of their time lying down.

• Provide as much wind protection as feasibly possible – whether in the form of permanent wind breaks, stacked bales, barns or buildings, or by allowing access to shelterbelts or wooded areas.

• Clean the navel!  Teresa Steckler, University of Illinois Beef Specialist, states that pathogens can travel up the umbilical cord and have easy access to the calf’s circulatory system via the liver.  Even if the umbilical cord looks clean, it is still recommended to spray it with a 7% tincture of iodine solution, and occasionally reapply until the umbilical cord is completely dried up.

• Maintain maternal health – make sure the cow, especially a young cow, has adequate body condition to not only produce high quality colostrum but that she can continue to produce high quality milk that will supply the necessary antibodies for her calf.

• Make sure calves get colostrum ASAP (within two-four hours after birth) and receive enough of it – whether it’s from a frozen source, or colostrum replacer (not supplement).  And if you’re not sure how much colostrum they have received, or if they have received any at all, administering colostrum with an esophageal feeder can help make sure the calf receives it soon enough and also gives the calf enough energy to nurse on their own.

• Keep the entrance area of a calf shelter clean.  If calves have a shelter to go into is the area around the entrance clean?  It’s a guarantee that some calves will choose to lie right outside the shelter so that they can be next to mom, so be sure to keep the entrance area bedded well, and it will also help entice others to come in to the shelter.  

• Calf blankets can help increase survivability and have been proven to increase average daily gain by as much as 0.3 pounds per day if left on the first three weeks of life, according to a North Dakota State study.  Most calves only need them left on for a few days if they are weak or chilled.

• Have a plan for treating hypothermia or severe cold stress in calves – by drying off with towels, placing under heat lamps or in a calf warming device, or immersing calf in warm water.  

There is no magical solution to eliminate all calving problems when dealing with inclement weather, but applying the basics and keeping both baby and momma dry, clean, and fed will help solve most problems.  

Source: Melissa Runck, U of M Extension, (507) 836-1143, 

FSA Payment Limitations by Program 

The 2014 Farm Bill established a maximum dollar amount for each program that can be received annually, directly or indirectly, by each person or legal entity. Payment limitations vary by program for 2014 through 2018. 

Below is an overview of payment limitations by program. 

Commodity and Price Support Programs

The annual limitation for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs) and Market Loan Gains is $125,000 each. 

Conservation Programs

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) annual rental payment and incentive payment is limited to $50,000. CRP contracts approved before Oct. 1, 2008, may exceed the limitation, subject to payment limitation rules in effect on the date of contract approval. 

The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) has an annual limit of $200,000 per disaster event. The Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) has an annual limit of $500,000 per disaster event. 

Disaster Assistance Programs

The annual limitation of $125,000 applies to the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and Tree Assistance Program (TAP). The total payments received under ELAP, LFP and LIP may not exceed $125,000. A separate limitation applies to TAP payments. 

Payment limitations also apply to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs. Contact your local NRCS office for more information. 

For more information on FSA payment limitations by program, visit