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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Tell When a Cow Is Ready to Calf?

How do you know when a Cow is ready to have it's baby? There are many steps involved and it usually takes a lot of time!!!!

Step 1:  Look at the cows udder bag. Right before they are ready to give birth, the cows might have swelling and tightening in the udders. 

Step 2:  Look at the cows Vulva (located behind the cow, you will need to step behind the cow)  Just before the cow gives birth her water sac will be sagging and you will be able to see it bounce when she walks.

Step 3: Watch her very carefully. If she is separating herself from the others, is restless, and keeps lying down and standing up, she is close to having that calf. Every cow is different, so watch for other signs of distress. 

Step 4:  Watch for anything unusual. "If you have a pregnant cow that has suddenly started acting weird, it may be best to separate her and prepare for the calving process."  

When helping the cow give birth:

Wash from your shoulder down. You WILL probably be using your whole are to help out.  You will need to get some shoulder gloves, they come in handy!  Then you will need to put some lube one the gloves and reach  into the cow. ( You will need to go in trough the birth canal (vagina)  not the anus, so you can see where and how the calf is positioned.).

Here are the positions and what you should do: 

-backward positions:  DO NOT try to twist the calf around.  Put on a calving chain or s good rope. Then pull out the calf as much and as fast as you can.  You should only do that if the back(hind) feet are present. 

For breach positions (where the calf is arriving tail-first), you will need to bring the hind legs up so that they are positioned in the birth canal. To do this, push the calf forward into the uterus as much as you can. Next, push the flexed hock outward (or away from the calf), and swing the flexed fetlock (of the foot) back inward. Keep the fetlock and hock joints tightly flexed and bring the fetlock joint and foot over the pelvic brim (which is towards you) into the birth canal. Repeat with the other leg. Then put the chains or rope on and start pulling.  

For head-back or head-down positions, push the calf back into the uterine cavity, cup your hand around the calf's nose and with the other holding the calf stable, bring the head to the normal position. If you can't quite reach the head, you can hook your fingers in the corner of the calf's mouth to bring it part way around. Then you can do the rest as explained previously to bring the head around.

For fore-leg-back positions, push the calf back into the uterus, grasp the upper leg and pull it forward enough to bring the knee forward. Then flex the knee tightly and pull it forward. With the knee now tightly flexed, cup the hoof with your hand and gently but firmly bring it up to normal position.

For bent-toe or caught-elbow positions, you will need to push the calf back to reposition the foot or elbow. For the bent toe, pushing the calf back may help correct the malpresentation itself. For the caught-elbow, when you have pushed the calf back into the uterus, grab the leg that is more back than the other and pull it forward. Once corrected, the calf should come easily.

If the calf is in normal position or in a position where you can pull from, put a set of calving chains or a rope (not twine, as twine is often too thin and too sharp to be used on a calf) on the front legs of the calf. Use a double half-hitch knot to put the chains on: one loop on the fetlock, the other just below the knee. Pull out and down when the cow is straining, and rest when the cow is not straining. If you have a calf-puller handy, use that too, though be careful of how quick you pull the calf out, as you could easily cause more damage if not handled correctly.
  • The calf puller should have the U-shaped part braced against the rear of the cow, with the chain attached to this part up behind the base of the cow's tail, with the calving chains that are attached to the legs of the calf, and the leaver to ratchet the calf out upwards. Tighten up the tension on the chains. Once you have reached tension, ratchet slowly, and work with the cow's contractions. Once you have made more tension to ease the calf out, move the puller down then back up, then increase the tension again. Repeat until you no longer need the puller (which is when the calf is half-out), then quickly unhook the chains from the puller and do the rest by hand
Once the calf is out, you must try to get it breathing right away. Clean out the calf's nose with your fingers to get all the amniotic fluid out. Tickle it's nose with a clean piece of straw or hay, put some water in its ears to make it shake its head, or if necessary, you may have to perform artificial respiration to get the calf going. A calf should start to breath within 30 to 60 seconds after birth

Once the calf has given signs that it is breathing and alive, carry or drag it to a pen with clean straw, then let the new momma cow out to be with her young.

Leave the cow and her newborn calf alone for a while to allow the cow to mother-up to the calf, clean the calf off, and urge him to start nursing. Make sure there is some hay and water for the cow to keep her happy while she gets to know her new youngster.

Written instructions are very hard to interpret sometimes, so I've found a video to help. 

  1. How to Help a Cow Give Birth - WikiHow." WikiHow - The How-to Manual That You Can Edit. Web. 04 Oct. 2011. <>.
  2. "How to Tell When a Cow Is Ready to Calf?" How to Tell When a Cow Is Ready to Calf?Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <( )>.

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