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Updated: Aug 19, 2022

By Owen Rees, Senior Productivity Consultant, Total Result AG Consulting

How do we give our heifers the best chance to calve down, safely, quickly and easily this autumn?

First, we need to understand where the calving issue is coming from; issues in calving can be condensed into four groups:

1. Genetic Issues

Calf size can have a major effect on the process during birth and ultimately on the outcome. Breed, and genetics should be considered before joining as it will have a big effect on the size and shape of the calf our heifers are trying to give birth to.

2. Cow Issues

Assuming our heifers were joined at 60% of their standard reference mature weight at 15 months of age, we are aiming for them to calve down as heifers at 85% of their mature weight. This is important because cow maturity and size is closely related to her pelvic width measurement. The width of the pelvis is the number one factor that causes calving difficulties in heifers, but too much growth can also cause our heifers issues, finding the right balance can be tricky. When a heifer starts to lay down internal fat, the most prominent area this fat will form is in the pelvic area. The amount of internal pelvic fat will condense the area a calf has to slide through during the birthing process.

3. Nutrition Issues

Heifers nutrition at the point of calving also has a big effect on the duration of the calving process. Increasing rates of slow calving or calving dystocia are often seen in herds where heifers are too thin and/or underfed energy. Animals that are low in energy or low in energy reserves become physically exhausted quicker during calving, which can lead to slow birthing and or assisted births.

4. Calf Positioning at Birth

It is estimated that 5% of all calves present for birth in an unfavorable position whether that be, leg back, head back or even backwards. Unfortunately, there’s not much that farmers can do to minimise issues with calf position, other than to provide assistance if the issue arises during the birthing process.

How could this season effect my heifers chances of calving unassisted, this year?

Well, for many Autumn calving beef herds, heifers will go into calf during early winter. This season brought widespread rain, resulting in large amounts of grass growth in most areas. This increased offering of feed for the heifers, has lead to some of our heifers looking on the over conditioned side, with fat deposits through the brisket and tail head areas, leading us to believe that there will be fat deposits in the pelvic areas as well.

How can the team at TRAC, help you to minimize calving issues this Autumn for heifers that have been in too good a paddock all spring and summer?

At TRAC, we know setting your heifers up for a productive life in your herd starts at weaning, with constant growth all the way through joining, the birth of its first calf and getting back in calf at 27 months of age. The last trimester of the cows pregnancy is where we can have the biggest impact on calving. Ideally, 2 - 3 months before calving we want the heifer to be a 3.5 BCS and we want to make sure they are fit, not fat. Consider, swapping them onto more unimproved native pasture with low fertility or if that’s unavailable, increase the stocking rate to restrict the cows from overeating. Bigger paddocks where cows need to walk to access feed & water will encourage exercise and promote better muscle function whilst minimizing excessive weight gain. There is a fine line between supplying enough nutrients to your heifers and starving them, so some nutritional guidance is best to support this program.

Your local TRAC productivity consultant will be able to help tailor a nutrition program for your beef heifers to make sure they are fit, not fat ahead of this Autumn calving season. Call us today to arrange an on farm consult.

Contact your local TRAC Expert to discuss the best strategy for your farm by calling 08 8733 1888.


Our Consultants


Tom Thorn

0427 243 319

Owen Rees

0429 437 823

Mikaela Baker

0457 243 319


To download a copy of this article, please click the link below...

Managing Over-Conditioned Beef Heifers
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