4 Best Practices For Assisting Cows During Calving

Dr. Erika Nagorske

Jan 10, 2023

With calving season here, there are a number of best practices you should consider when assisting your cows during calving

Watch Dr. Erika Nagorske, a practicing veterinarian with Southwest Veterinary Services, FBN®’s official veterinary partner, in the video below as she discusses four best practices to implement when helping mama deliver that calf.

Watch Now: Expert Shares 4 Ways to Assist Cows During Calving

1. Have the Right Supplies & Equipment

A broad spectrum of supplies and equipment are helpful during calving. Facilities vary, but having somewhere safe to handle your cows is important. Chutes are ideal because some cows get nervous during calving and need extra restraint for safety. 

You may also want a head snare to help redirect calves and ensure their head is coming in the right direction and not turning back on itself. OB chains (30” or 60”) and handles will help assist in pulling the calf. A calf jack is also good to have on hand just in case.

It’s important to have lots of lube when pulling a calf. A great tip is to have an equine stomach pump and hose because it allows you to pump a warm water/lube mixture from a bucket into the cow’s birth canal and around the calf. This will lubricate the birth canal and create buoyancy for the calf which will help you better manipulate getting the calf out. 

[Many of these supplies can be purchased directly through the Animal Health section of FBN Direct® and shipped directly to your farm.]

2. Know When to Help Mama Cow

While you may have some anxiety about how the cow is dealing with birthing, you should pay attention to how she behaves. If she stops actively pushing, this is a good time to grab a sleeve and see what’s going on to determine if she’s too tired or find out why the calf isn’t coming out.

If she’s been actively lying down to calve for 1-2 hours, this is also a good time to use a sleeve. If you see no progression in 1-2 hours, such as not seeing the “water bag” or placenta come through and break or you don’t see the calf’s feet, this could mean the cow is not dilated enough or the calf is coming the wrong way.

If you are assisting the cow, try to pull when she pushes. Work with her, not against her. If the cow lets up, give her a break and then continue the cycle of pulling and pushing. This is a good collaborative way to get the calf out of the cow with minimal stress to both cow and calf.

3. Don’t Wait Too Long to Call a Veterinarian

If you’ve been physically working and assisting the cow for more than 45 minutes, it’s a good time to call a veterinarian. Depending on how far away your vet is, you may want to call sooner. 

One of the biggest mistakes producers make is not calling a vet when their help could make a difference. In the end, you can do more damage than good which could result in a cow that’s exhausted or, in a worst case scenario, a calf that’s passed away. 

The faster you’re able to get a professional to help, the more likely the calf will live. This is especially true if the cow has to undergo a c-section. 

4. Provide Postpartum Care

If the cow had a tough calving, here are a few treatments to consider: 

Uterine boluses

This will help with retained placenta or help with any uterine infections. You can find uterine boluses on FBN Direct.

Pain medications & antibiotics

Discuss available options with your veterinarian if the cow is not recovering as you’d expect. Antibiotics, among many other pharmaceuticals, are available on FBN Direct’s online animal health store

Oral rehydration

This is particularly important if the cow calves during extremely hot or cold weather. Calving is a stressful event for the cow and oral rehydration could help produce more colostrum, which will help the cow better attend to her calf. 

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The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your animals. 

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Dr. Erika Nagorske

Jan 10, 2023

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