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Calving Problems

You cannot save them all, but paying close attention and having the right resources available, does make a difference.

Nashville, Ark. – In the last week or so I’ve been preparing for my Ag program scheduled for December 15, “Preparing for the Upcoming Calving Season.”  However, back home over Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad had a problem with one of their cows giving birth. Immediately I was in Extension mode, asking questions, giving advice. Unfortunately by the time the calf was born, it had already been too long and it had died. I felt like I failed them. If I had only gotten home earlier, if they had only gotten her to the vet sooner, etc, etc. However, in all of this, I learned a valuable lesson - you can’t save them all. While speaking with the veterinarian, he said that by the time most of his cattlemen realize there is a problem, it is already too late. That’s where I come in. Extension is here to provide research based information; the tools that you, the cattlemen, need for the betterment of your herd. No, you cannot save them all, but paying close attention and having the right resources available, does make a difference. I wish this story had a better ending, I wish I could say my point was proven right here and we were able to save this calf. Instead, let’s go over it and use it as an example.

A mature cow, approximately 6 years old, has had healthy calves every year prior. She has been limping on her back leg, but nothing serious. No other indications to know there would be a problem. Wednesday evening, around 5pm, Dad noticed her water bag being expelled. Around 6:30pm they noticed the fetus was abnormally presented, one foot, upside down, sticking out. They tried to pen her up, but were unable to catch her. Around 9:30 she finally had the calf on her own; it was dead.

What could have been done differently? We could have penned her up and would have been able to put our hands on her, but even around 6:30 when she started pushing, the calf was already abnormally positioned and in the birth canal. In addition, it was still within that 2 hour window of calving - so even when recognized early, sometimes it just doesn’t work in our favor. If we had been able to pull the calf, perhaps it would have lived, but would we have hurt the cow or stressed her out in the process? Even the veterinarians said once a calf is abnormally presented, whether it is only by one foot or if the calf is completely breech (backwards), there is not much that can be done to ensure a live calf as the end result. The calf was not over-sized and the cow was not immature or in poor body condition, so those factors did not play a role.

Again, with the right tools and knowledge provided by Extension, when you experience this situation on your own farm, you will, at least, be able to make decisions quickly and feel confident in the situation.  

By Kaycee Davis
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Kaycee Davis
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517

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