What to look for during spring calving season

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


University of Missouri Extension Livestock Specialist

Dr. Scott Poock, MU Extension Veterinarian, recently discussed the process of calving at a program I attended. He described what to look for during a normal presentation and discussed options when problems arise. Below are some concepts from his presentation.

Labor can be divided into three stages. Stage I consists of dilation of the cervix, calf rotation into the upright position, and the beginning of uterine contractions. Heifers and cows may be nervous, kick at their side, and may exhibit slight straining. This is often observed in heifers, but may or may not be seen in cows. This stage usually lasts 2 to 6 hours, depending on the animal.

During Stage II, the calf enters the birth canal with the feet and head protruding first. Cows will probably be lying down. The water sac or calf becomes visible and there is a discharge of fluids. Calf delivery is complete at the end of this stage. This stage may last from 2 to 6 hours.

Stage III consists of uterine contractions to expel the fetal membranes. If the membranes aren't expelled within 12 hours, the cow or heifer will need attention.

Dr. Poock stressed that it is important to recognize what is abnormal. He suggested that during Stage II, the time from feet being visible to birth should be no longer than 2 hours. He also indicated if no progress is observed in 30 minutes, check to see if assistance is needed.

When examining a potential problem delivery, he indicated the objectives should be to determine if the cervix is dilated, if the water sac has broken, if the calf is in the proper position, and if the calf can pass through the pelvis.

There are three possible outcomes from the examination. First, the producer cannot determine what the problem is. The second outcome is the producer knows the problem and solution but can't handle it. The third outcome is the producer knows the problem and solution but is unsuccessful in correcting the problem within 30 minutes. For any of these outcomes, stop and get professional help.

Dr. Poock also stressed the importance of cleanliness and demonstrated equipment and supplies to have on hand to assist heifers and cows experiencing calving difficulties.

For more information on this topic, contact me at the Extension Center in Warsaw at (660) 438-5012. University of Missouri Extension is an equal opportunity / ADA institution.