How many calves are lost during the first two weeks after birth on your operation?

Losing calves is always depressing. Producers rely on income from those calves to offset annual cow costs and provide income for the cow-calf enterprise. Dead calves add nothing to income and removing a dead calf is never something a producer wants to do.

Regardless of the reason, disappointment always is evident as a new mother follows the dead calf to the gate. Perhaps the gate simply closes, but more than likely, the cow follows through as well, only to be removed from her calf.

North Dakota State University Extension has some excellent benchmarking data to suggest calf death loss averages 3.26 percent. That equates to three to four calves for every 100 beef cows. Abortions would add to the loss resulting in 4 percent of cows not raising calves past two weeks of age.

The most common recorded reasons of death are calves that are stepped on, deformities, hypothermia, death while calving, birth difficulty or simply born dead. If the calf stands or there is evidence that the calf was up and about, the most common recorded reasons for death are dehydration, no milk, hypothermia, abandonment, calves are stepped on or other poor mothering ability.

Less than 1 percent of the cows abort their calves. Occasionally a calf is found that was not full-term. These calves seem to be more of a function of aggressive handling, high stress events such as ice slippage because their arrival often will coincide with recent cow handling or follow a highly stressful events.

With the cow vaccination protocols available today, seldom does one see the incidence of individual disease outbreaks that were much more common in years past. However, you should never let your guard down because the exposure to disease or non-vaccinated herds will create the increased risk of a disease.