With spring calving underway, it never hurts to study up on what to do if a cow or heifer has trouble calving. Bob Blomme, veterinarian from Audubon-Manning Veterinary Clinic in Iowa, says that from the time the water bag is seen, a cow should have the calf on the ground in one hour and a heifer should in two hours. If after that time progress is not occurring, an examination is warranted.

And while it's important to learn when to intervene and help a cow having calving difficulty, it is equally important to know what to do once that calf is on the ground. When a listless calf is pulled or delivered, Dr. Blomme says to refrain from hanging the calf upside down or swinging it around to get it breathing. The weight of the intestines pushes against the diaphragm, essentially compressing the lung field and making it difficult to take that first breath. Also, the amniotic fluid the calf swallowed throughout the pregnancy can flow backward from the stomach through the esophagus and into the mouth. If the calf inhales at that time, he aspirates stomach fluid into the lungs. When you see fluid running out of the mouth and or nose of a calf being held upside down, that is a refluxing from the stomach, not "clearing" his lungs.

Instead, insert a straw inside the nostril. That acts as an obnoxious stimulus that the calf tries to spit and sputter away from. Roll the calf from side to side, rubbing it vigorously all the while. This combination of stimuli usually gets that calf breathing within the first 60 seconds.