Class participants assist live birth in Calving & Neonatal Calf Care workshop

Specialized skills and knowledge of potential issues facing cows and calves through the birthing process is key for dairy herd managers. As farms strive to become more self-reliant and provide better care for their animals, regional dairy specialists with Cornell Cooperative Extension and PRO-DAIRY teamed up to provide a Calving and Neonatal Calf Care workshop for herd managers. The workshop shared current research and best practices for successful calving procedures and initial calf and cow care after birth.

The course was designed around two days of instruction, hosted by two different farms. As many farmers know, workshops with a hands-on component are key to meeting the educational needs of agricultural workers. We provided ample opportunities for hands-on learning, with classroom presentations complemented by farm walks, technical demonstrations, and hands-on calf and cow exams.

Having a small class size guaranteed ample opportunity for attendees to ask questions during classroom time and participate in calf exams as led by veterinarians at each farm. Classroom sessions included presentations on Stages and Signs of Labor, Assessing Calving Situations, Delivery and Immediate Calf Care, Medication and Supplementation for Calves, and Sanitation.

During the farm walk on the first day, participants witnessed a difficult calving, practiced assessing the problem, and assisted the birth of the calf. On the second day of the workshop, the herd veterinarian led the class through a complete calf exam, which included listening to heart and lungs, measuring temperature, and assessing other general indicators of calf health.

All participants reported learning something new in the course. Students planned to implement changes upon returning to their home farms, including better cleaning of calf feeders, and paying more attention to calf care and calf health.

All participants ranked the importance of learning on-farm and the relevancy of the hands-on activities as a 4 or 5, with 5 being the highest score.  All evaluations stated they would recommend attending the workshop to others, with reasons including “Lots of information to learn from and take home”, “It showed me new things to look for”, and “It is very informative and presented well”.

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