Cows May Need
Help When Giving Birth
Calves may need some
human help as they are being born, says Greg Lardy, a North Dakota State
University Extension Service beef cattle specialist.
closely during the calving season,” he says. “If signs of
calving difficulty appear, quietly assist the cow or heifer.”
He recommends that
producers also should disinfect all obstetrical chains and other equipment
properly after each use. Finally, knowing when to seek veterinary assistance
will result in more live calves and less stress on the cows in the long
run, he says.
Here are some steps
he recommends for helping cows give birth:
- If delivery is
delayed, do a pelvic exam to determine if the cervix has dilated. Be
sure to use an obstetrical glove and proper disinfectant.
- Determine the
fetus’s position. If it’s abnormal, decide whether veterinary
assistance is necessary.
- Assess the size
of the calf relative to the cow’s pelvic area. The calf and cow
may suffer serious injury or death if someone tries to mechanically
extract a calf that is too large for the birth canal.
- Attach obstetrical
chains to the calf’s front feet. Place one chain on each leg approximately
2 to 3 inches above the ankle joint and dew claw. Be sure the chains
are pulling from the top (opposite the dew claw) side of the leg.
- Pull the calf
gently. Pull one leg and then the other alternately to “walk the
- After exposing
the head and shoulders, pull downward at a 45-degree angle. This lessens
the chance of hip lock.
- If the calf becomes
hip locked, try to push it back in the birth canal a few inches and
then rotate it half a turn. Veterinary assistance may be required in
- A breech presentation
(calf coming out backward) occurs in less than 5 percent of all births.
This position is difficult because the calf’s rear legs do not
stimulate dilation of the cervix as well as the front feet and head,
and because the umbilical cord generally breaks before the calf is delivered,
increasing the likelihood of the calf dying during birth.
- Mechanical calf
pullers exert considerable force as they extract the calf. When using
these instruments, be sure to determine that presentation is normal,
then apply gentle, gradual pressure. Excessive force can maim or kill
the calf and traumatize the cow.
remove any mucous from the calf’s nostrils. If the calf is unresponsive,
rub it briskly to stimulate it, or use a piece of straw or hay to tickle
its nostrils to stimulate its breathing. Using artificial respiration
also may help the calf start breathing, Lardy says.
Other options include
buying a commercial respirator or placing a small piece of soft garden
hose in one nostril. Cover the calf’s mouth and remaining nostril
and blow gently into the hose at five- to seven-second intervals until
the calf begins to breathe.
always an exciting time,” Lardy says. “With adequate preparation,
you can avoid some calving problems and be ready to deal with the others
as they come up.”
Lardy, (701) 231-7660, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, email@example.com