Maternal Matters: assisting difficult calvings
The birth of a calf requires a significant investment of time, effort and money. It is the only annual output from the cow, so it is important to minimise calving difficulties and know how to assist when necessary.
Minimising calving difficulties
Planning for all possible outcomes is the best way to prepare for calving. The aim is to have a tight calving period, with most calves born unassisted. If a calf dies, the entire annual productivity of the cow is lost.
How and when to assist?
It is important to know if and when intervention is needed, as interfering too soon can cause unnecessary damage. In a recent study by AHDB, around 9% of the adult cows examined died due to infections caused by damage around calving. A further 5% of deaths being due to complications after caesareans.
Ninety per cent of calves that that died after calving were alive at the onset. Therefore, understanding how to assist cows effectively, and resuscitate the newborn calf, are essential.