The Good Calving Guide

The Good Calving Guide

Calving Kit
Essential kit should include obstetric gloves, clean calving ropes for head and legs, obstetric gel, surgical scrub, a clean calving gown, a broad spectrum antibiotic and an NSAID (painkiller and anti-inflammatory). 
 

Calving Pens
Dedicated calving pens are essential. The pens should be light, airy and well bedded;  with electric lighting, water, concrete floors and walls which can be cleaned and disinfected between calvings, secure gates, and secure points where the cow can be safely haltered. Calving should never be attempted in a conventional crush. If a yoke is used it must have a quick release and be open to ground level, to avoid a choking risk should the animal go down. Caesarean restraints are now widely available and are recommended if caesareans are routinely performed. 

Decision Making
The majority of calving problems are due to an imbalance between the size of the calf and the cow. Reasons include improper bull selection, unplanned pregnancy (e.g. young heifers served by bull calves) or the anatomy of the cow (e.g. narrow pelvis). Often these calvings are normally presented but the cow fails to progress unaided. It is unlikely that the calf will be safely delivered by traction if
•    The calf’s head fails to pass through the cervix into the vagina before traction is applied.
•    The calf’s feet are unable to present side by side i.e. they are crossed over.
In these situations, call for veterinary assistance.

Applying Traction
If traction is to be used, then ropes should be placed on both legs. A head rope may also help and should be applied over the calf’s ears. This rope should not be attached to the jack, but handed to an assistant who guides the head into the vagina by steady pulling. Generous amounts of obstetric gel should be used and firm, steady pressure should be applied. If the calf fails to progress then traction should be abandoned and a caesarean section performed.

Correction of Malpresentations
Anterior malpresentations include head back, one or both feet back, or head presented and both feet back. To correct these, gently push the calf back into the uterus and correct the malpresentation, taking care to cup a hand over the feet to prevent tearing of the uterus. If the head is presented, place a head rope before pushing the calf back.
Posterior presentations include both back legs presented in the vagina or breech presentation when one or both legs are extended forward into the uterus. To correct a breech presentation push the calf’s hips back into the uterus and attach a rope around the leg. Push the calf’s hock forward whilst pulling the rope to draw the leg towards the cervix. 
Care must be taken to avoid tearing the uterus. Once both back legs are presented in the vagina traction can be applied. If the calf’s hips are too large and no progress is made with steady traction a caesarean will be required. 

Twins
At first inspection it can be very confusing to identify how twins are lying. Follow each leg towards the body or head of the calf and identify which limb belongs to which calf. Then place ropes on both legs and the head before applying traction. 
Due to the smaller size of twins, little force should be needed to extract the calves. If the calving is failing to progress then traction should cease and the ropes should be re-assessed to ensure they are all attached to the same calf. 
Always check for a second calf even if the first-born calf is large. It is not uncommon for a second calf to go unnoticed until a few days post calving when the cow becomes ill. 

Torsion (Twisting) of the Uterus
Uterine torsions occur when the uterus twists, most often in an anti-clockwise direction, so that the vagina feels tight and coiled and it may only be just possible to reach a limb or the head. Torsions can be corrected by pushing the calf in the opposite direction to the twist; however they will often require veterinary assistance.

Incomplete Dilatation of the Cervix
If the cervix fails to dilate fully, it can be felt as a firm ring-like structure. If this is identified, traction must not be attempted as the cervix will tear. The cow should be re-checked in one to two hours and if the cervix has failed to dilate veterinary attention should be sought. 

 

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