Winter gardening tips are available

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Extension Service News with Kim Stromeier

Upcoming meetings for farmers
Winter Gardening — at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Owen County Public Library. Investigate ideas on how to extend your landscape season through the winter.
Profit With Produce — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday at at the Capstone Produce Market in Campbellsburg. Morning program will be on vegetable production practices and afternoon program focuses on food safety and marketing.
Owen County Farm Marketing Conference — “MarketReady Producer Sales Training,” from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at Elk Creek Winery. A $25-preregistration fee is required from extension office. Learn how to break into the restaurant and grocery/wholesale markets.
Tobacco Production Update — 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Jonesville Firehouse. There will be an update on upcoming year production topics.
All of these, as well as all educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

Saving every calf
As we approach the spring calving season, a logical hope for every beef producer is to save every calf. Before the first calf is born, be sure the cows are in good body condition so that they will have a strong calf and an adequate supply of high quality colostrum milk.
• Calves need to receive colostrum that is rich in antibodies during the first six hours of life. That starts with nutrition of the cow herd because that affects the calf’s immune status and, therefore, calf survival.
• Calving losses can also be minimized by providing extra care to the cow herd — especially first-calf heifers.
Separate first-calf heifers from mature cows. Calving difficulty may run as high as 30-40 percent for 2-year-old heifers, whereas 3 percent might be normal for mature cows. It is especially important that first-calf heifers be observed closely. They should be placed in a small, accessible pasture that is near a corral where assistance can be given if needed.
• Provide clean pasture for calving. A well-sodded pasture should be used as the calving area instead of a wet, muddy lot. Calving pasture should be large enough to permit adequate exercise and offer some protection against prevailing winds.
• Be familiar with the signs of calving. The earliest sign that may be noticed is enlargement of the udder; however, this may occur several weeks prior to calving. Other signs that appear close to calving are relaxing of the pelvic ligaments and swelling of the vulva.
• Check cows frequently. Close observation is needed so that assistance can be given to cows experiencing calving difficulty. Observing cows three or four times daily and providing assistance as needed will result in more live calves.
• Know when cows need assistance. Intervention is justified when two or three hours have passed without progress, or if delivery has not occurred within two hours after the water sac appears. Beef producers should train themselves to recognize calving problems promptly and to know when professional help is needed.
• Be sure calf is breathing normally. After the calf is delivered, some stimulation may be required to start it breathing. This may be accomplished by rubbing it briskly, slapping it on the ribs or tickling the nostrils with a straw. Mucous should be removed from the mouth and throat. Lifting the calves up by the hindlegs will help drain fluids from the respiratory system.
• Increase feed after calving. The cow’s energy intake should be increased to about 16 pounds of TDN per day as soon as the calf appears to be taking all of the milk (10-14 days after calving). The extra energy will help cows produce enough milk for her calf and rebreed on schedule.
An adequate nutritional program is essential if cows are going to rebreed in a short-time interval and maintain a concentrated calving season. The management and nutrition that a cow receives from approximately 50 days before calving until rebreeding has a tremendous influence on reproductive efficiency. Unfortunately, quality and availability of forages may be lower in late winter this year due to last summer’s drought. Therefore, energy supplementation will be needed, especially after calving until rebreeding.
Cattlemen faced with severe hay shortages may be tempted to underfeed cows and wait for spring pastures.
However, underfeeding cows can have serious detrimental effects on return to estrous, conception rate, milk production and calf survival.
Be sure that the cows that enter this year’s breeding season will conceive at a high rate. Give them every chance to succeed and then cull the cows that don’t breed.
Open cows won’t make any money even if calves are two dollars a pound.
Keep applying some selection pressure.