Subdividing calving pastures and moving beef cows through them using the Sandhills calving system can reduce the incidence of scouring, points out Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist.
“In a typical calving pasture, the concentration of bacteria and viruses that cause scours increases dramatically as calving season progresses,” says Anderson. “This means calves born a couple weeks into calving season and later may get exposed to a very high dose of these pathogens. In addition, calves are most susceptible to developing scours during their second and third week of age, just about the time potential exposure to pathogens becomes high.”
The Sandhills calving system breaks up this scour cycle, he says. First subdivide your calving pasture or use multiple pastures. Then start calving with all your cows in one pasture. After a week to 10 days, move all the cows that have not yet calved to a fresh pasture. Repeat this process every week to 10 days, always leaving behind the pairs born the previous week. That system of movement minimizes exposure of young calves to scour pathogens.
Obviously, selecting the right pastures for calving that can be subdivided with water available in each subdivision is critical. After eight weeks you could have cattle in eight subdivisions.
“This might sound like a lot of work, but it likely will be less work than treating sick calves as well as reduce calf losses,” says Anderson. “Subdividing pastures usually improves pasture health, but with the Sandhills calving system, it can improve calf health as well.”