The fall-calving season in upon us. Everyone hopes for very little if any calving difficulty. However, the realistic truth tells us that a few heifers or cows will need assistance at calving time. Before applying the obstetrical chains to "pull" a calf during a difficult birth, a proper analysis of the situation must be made. Wash the vulva, anus and the area in between using soap and warm water. Pulling on a calf should only be done when the presentation and posture of the calf are normal. “Normal” for most calves is defined as the "anterior presentation" with fore feet first, head resting on the limbs, and the eyes level with the knees. Before chains are applied, be certain that the cervix is completely dilated. Pulling on a calf before the cervix is properly dilated can lead to severe injury to the cow or heifer.

Before the calving season gets in full swing, a review of the possible scenarios would be helpful. To learn more about how to work with a difficult birth, purchase and watch ($24.95 each) two videos (VHS or DVD) available by contacting OSU Ag Communications Services at 405-744-4065. These two videos are called "Calving Management-Parturition" (VT-323) and "Calving Management-Dystocia" (VT-324). In the second video (VT-324), Larry Rice, DVM and OSU Professor-Emeritus, demonstrates how to check for cervical dilation.

Also download a copy of "Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers" E-1006, an OSU Extension Circular that thoroughly discusses working with cows and heifers before and during calving season. Know your own limitations. Call your local veterinarian for assistance soon in the calving process if you find a situation that is more difficult than you can handle in a short time.

Source: Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Extension Cattle Reproduction Specialist