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CALF 911 – HOW TO INTERVENE WITH A DIFFICULT CALVING

Calving cows out is a huge responsibility with many factors coming together to ensure a healthy calf hits the ground. A cow in ideal body condition, good breeding and genetics, and a clean environment are instrumental in a healthy calf being born.

But what happens when something doesn’t go as planned? What if a calf comes backwards or a leg is turned back? Producers need to be prepared to assist a cow having a difficult birth (dystocia), including the knowledge of how and when to help. This video walks producers through the critical steps of assessing and managing difficult calvings. 

Take the time to prepare.

Wash the cow and your hands: Cleanliness (00:09) is an important step that is often overlooked despite evidence that using poor hygiene when palpating animals can lead to long term reproductive issues and delays in breed back intervals.  

Wear gloves: Wearing palpation gloves will reduce risk of contracting zoonotic diseases (transmitted from animals to humans) such as Q fever and leptospirosis. 

Use lubrication: Even the hair on a bare arm is enough to tear the delicate tissues of the birth canal. Proper lubrication will ensure that uterine tears and abrasions won’t lead to further complications and problems rebreeding.  

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How to (and not to) resuscitate newborn calves

Video: How to (and not to) resuscitate newborn calves

Calving is a natural process, and most cows will give birth to a healthy calf without issues. However, there are times when things go wrong and you need to know how to save a baby calf. If a newborn calf requires resuscitation, it is recommended to put them in the calf recovery position, poke a clean straw in their nose, dribble a few drops of water in their ear, or rub them vigorously. Do not hang the calf upside down.