with Phil Rennie
Vet Phillip Rennie’s six-step checklist to ensure cows calve as safely as possible.
Step 1: Examine the vagina
Step 2: Examine the cervix – is it fully dilated?
Step 3: Is the calf alive? If not and the cow is unwell, then call the vet.
Step 4: How is the calf presented? Normal is two front legs and a head and a tail and two back legs is OK. A breech is a tail and no back legs. Does it look like twins with a front and a back leg? Or deformed calf e.g: a fetal monster?!
The front legs have two flexible joints below the elbow that bend the same way, hind legs have one flexible joint below the hock that bends the opposite way to the hock, see pictured.
If you can’t convert the abnormal to normal or no progress in 10 minutes, call for help.
The 10 minute rule: calving paralysis is more likely to occur in longer calvings, as pressure is placed on the nerves to the back legs as the calf goes through the cow’s pelvis. If there is very little or slow progress in 10 minutes then it is probably best to call for help.
Step 5: Will the calf fit through the pelvis? Usually, if the two front legs and head are engaged inside the pelvis the rest of the calf will fit through, too. Sometimes it can be necessary to slightly rotate the calf to make it fit better through the widest part of the cow’s pelvis.
Step 6: Use gentle traction to pull the calf out and use plenty of lube! Lube can make a big difference, especially if the calf is not particularly fresh and all the normal uterine fluids have been expelled.
Good luck for the upcoming calving season!
A calf’s front legs have two flexible joints below the elbow that bend the same way and hind legs have one flexible joint below the hock that bends the opposite way.