Now that spring calving season is upon you, don't wait until that frigid or rainy night when a cow needs help to think about complicated births. Since time is vital to proper assistance, have the proper facility and equipment ready before you ever need them.

A clean, well-lit maternity stall with a head catch facilitates examination. Obstetrical pulling chains and handles should be kept clean and placed in disinfectant before use. Prepare plastic squeeze bottles of disinfectant, soap and lubricant so they are easy to use when needed.

  • After observing a delay in delivery, clean the pelvic area and determine the position of the fetus. If it is in an abnormal position, experience and judgement must be used to determine if a correction can be made or if professional help should be summoned.
  • Determine if the size of the calf is too big relative to the birth canal to pull without causing long term injury to the cow or calf. If this determination is made while the calf is still in the birth canal the opportunity for a successful cesarean section exist.
  • Attach the pulling chains to the front legs of the calf, placing the loop of each chain around each leg. Then slide the chains up on the cannon bone 2 to 3 inches above the ankle joints and dew claws.
  • Attach the handles and pull making sure the chains have not slipped. It is usually best to alternately pull on one leg and then the other a few inches at a time. This is called “walking out” the shoulders.
  • Once the head and shoulders are exposed pull the calf downward at a 45-degree angle. If hip lock occurs, push the calf back a short distance and rotate the calf a half turn and pull down and forward between the cow’s legs. Pulling downward raises the calf’s hips, allowing them to slip through.
  • A calf puller should be used correctly and only by experienced people because the extreme traction can kill the calf, traumatize the cow and both may be lost. Be sure the calf is in the proper position, lubricate the vagina and apply gradual traction. If no progress is made, a cesarean may be needed.
  • Always remember: be clean, learn your capabilities and learn when to call for help.