What to expect when your cow’s expecting

What to expect when your cow’s expecting:

One of the common causes of calf loss during pregnancy is dystocia or calving difficulty.

Dystocia means difficult birth, typically caused by a large or awkwardly positioned fetus, by smallness of the maternal pelvis, or by failure of the uterus and cervix to contract and extract normally. (Oxford Dictionary)

Knowing the right time to intervene and provide timely assistance greatly reduces stress on the calf, dam and producer.

Difficult births can lead to leg fractures, damaged nerves and an increased chance of diseases. The best way to know when to provide assistance is to know the timeline for a normal birth.

Calving is broken up into three stages:-

Stage 1 begins with the dilation of the cervix. This stage usually lasts two to six hours but may last up to 24 hours without worry. There usually are few visible signs during Stage 1, particularly in older cows. Some cows may become restless or isolate themselves from the herd.

By the end of Stage 1, there may be some mucus discharge, and the relaxation of the pelvic muscles may cause either side of the tail head to look “sunken.” Complete cervical dilation must be achieved before the cow enters the next stage of parturition and must be checked before any assistance is given.

Stage 2 of calving begins with the calf entering the birth canal and ends with the delivery of the calf. This is the stage where the most intervention may be needed. Stage 2 visibly begins when the water sac can be seen.

Historically, it was thought Stage 2 could last from two to five hours, but recent research shows it is much faster.

Although, it is recommended to provide assistance to heifers after 60 minutes with no progress, and to cows after 30 minutes with no progress.

If the cow or heifer continues to make progress with each contraction, let her continue on her own. If no progress is being made, perform an examination to determine the size and positioning of the calf and the type of assistance needed.

Producers should learn their limits and know when veterinary assistance is needed.

Stage 3 is the delivery of the placenta and fetal membranes. This normally occurs within eight to 12 hours. If the placenta has not been shed after 12 hours, it is considered retained, and a veterinarian preferably from livestock247 should be contacted immediately.

The veterinarian can administer antibiotics to guard against infection. The placenta should slough off on its own within four to seven days.

It is important to note that your veterinarian should be contacted at any stage of calving if a cow is having difficulty. A lot of veterinarians prefer to be in the know very early before problem arises during calving therefore always keep them in loop.

Keep in mind that they have more experience and tools available, if assistance is needed.

It is never too early to get a veterinarian involved.

If you made it to the end of this article, don’t forget to check out our other post on “10 Things to Consider for Small Scale Beef Production” here.