Go back to basics at calving time
Simple measures are vital to producing healthy calves and protecting cow health
Safe handling facilities are essential when calving the cow. A calving gate and clean calving pens guarantee a safe working environment and reduced disease incidence.
A lot of what I write about in this article may seem basic, but it covers some of the important issues I see affecting spring calving suckler herds in our practise where so often we hear of farmers/vets being injured by cows at calving time.
With reduced human contact a lot of our cows/heifers can be very dangerous and agitated at calving, so having these properly restrained when intervening or handling is critical to reduce stress on the cow and prevent accidents occurring.
Assuming you chose the right bull and cows are in correct body condition score (BCS), 2.75 to 3.25, at calving, then the next job is getting a live healthy calf on the ground. The target is to get over 95pc of live calves on the ground. Calving facilities should be clean as bad hygiene can lead to so many diseases. A cow should be moved to a calving box before they start calving to minimise stress.
Most cows will calve on their own so once signs of calving begins I usually recommend leaving six hours before handling animals per vaginum to make sure things are progressing ok. Earlier intervention may be warranted with at risk animals like those carrying twins. If feet and waterbag are present, the waterbag isn't burst and you don't suspect foetal oversize, then give the cow another one or two hours. At this stage if the legs are back or the head isn't showing then intervention is warranted. It is so important to always wear calving gloves and don't spare the lubricant either.
I have calved lots of cows at this stage and am very aware of space when going to pull a calf. Never chance it, if there are problems. Your vet is experienced and well placed to make a decision on calf size. A hard calving could kill the calf and leave the cow down with the prospect of not standing again.
Caesarean sections are often seen as expensive, but they are the only option in some circumstances to get a live calf on the ground with low risk to the cow. A calving jack is a brilliant tool when used correctly but it can be devastating when used wrongly.
I will always prefer to have a cow standing to correct a calf that is presented wrong, it allows for extra space to manipulate head and limbs. Put your ropes on above the fetlock and ensure you have two front legs/back legs belonging to the same calf in the birth canal. I like to use thicker (coloured) ropes and always have the knot at the bottom.