3.0 CALVING TIME

A cows average pregnancy is 283 days and ranges from 273 to 29T days. Your mating records should allow you to calculate when a cow will calve and observe her closely at around this time.

Most calving will be normal and have no problems. But dairy type cattle, and their calves have large frames. Therefore they may have more difficulties with delivering their calves than village type or beef cattle.

A dairy cow will probably lose at least one calf in her lifetime if she is not well managed. These calves can often be saved by:

1. keeping the calving cow under observation at the time of calving,

2. providing some assistance when it seems that calving is not working and,

3. calling veterinary assistance when you are unable to help.

The cow can be left to calve in the paddock, but it is better to keep her in a small fenced off area so she will not be disturbed by the other cattle, and you can keep an eye on her and provide assistance if this is necessary. The area should be clean and well grassed, where she can comfortably lie down.

3.1. Whether or not to Expect Calving Trouble

As a general rule, if a cow has not produced a calf after 24 hours of beginning to calve, you can assume that she is having trouble. But the following factors influence the chances of her having difficulties, and you should be aware of them:

Large, milking breeds usually have larger calves, They may have a greater calving difficulty than smaller framed local cows and Brahman derived breeds.

Young and small heifers have a greater chance of calving difficulty than mature cows. Heifers must be old enough and large enough.

Mature cows require less attention at calving. Generally, cows which have had at least one calf already, have fewer problems. Although they are usually quick to

deliver their calves, mature cows can also take longer to deliver the calf than heifers, without being in danger.

Cows kept tethered or in sheds often have more calving difficulties because their muscles are less active than cows allowed free grazing.

If the cow has been mated with a bull of a larger breed than she is, she may have a calf which is too large to deliver easily, this is particularly so if she is a first-calf heifer.

3.2. Signs of a Cow which is Calving Soon

You should know from keeping breeding records which cows are due to calve and when they are expected to do so. If you are not sure, follow these tips:

the abdomen becomes larger in all directions during pregnancy, but a cow with a large abdomen is not necessarily pregnant,

the udder enlarges and fills one to two weeks before calving, the teats become smooth, firm and larger,

the udder of heifers begins to develop only at about the fifth month of pregnancy,

cows which are milking may begin to dry off and may cease milking at about the seventh month of pregnancy,

foetal movement can sometimes be seen in the left flank from six months on,

cows which are normally excitable will become calmer,

The vulva is swollen, and often has streams of mucus coming from it, particularly when the cow gets up after lying down,

The cow is restless. She gets up and sits down often,

She will flick her tail often.

The calves' feet and nose appear at the vulva when she is about to calve.

All of these signs are normal

  

If the presentation of the calf is normal the cow will show:

some or all of these signs: The two front feet and the nose of the calf will also be showing, or,

some or all of these signs and the two back feet of the calf will also be showing.

Figure 1. Normal Presentation for Calving

3.3 What to Do at Calving Time

Most calving takes place normally and without any problems at all, You must remember that: it is better to leave a calving cow alone and undisturbed unless there are obvious signs that she is having trouble. But keep an eye on her from a distance.

If a cow has been straining for four hours without making progress, an investigation should be made.

Heifers behave differently to cows. Cows usually calve quickly. Heifers usually take their time. Once they have started to calve, heifers often delay for an hour and a half or so and can be seen getting up, lying down and flicking their tails before getting down to the business of pushing the calf out.

Signs of danger to a calf being born depend mainly on the size of the heifer (or the cow if she is a small one) and the size of feet of the calf showing (this is a good guide to the size of the calf), and the time which has passed since you first noticed that she was trying to calve.

A small heifer and two large feet showing means that it maybe better to get veterinary assistance quickly rather than attempting to pull the calf out yourself or waiting to see how it goes.

Contractions in any cow or heifer will always stop after a few hours. A calf cannot be delivered unaided after contractions have stopped. Without contractions, it is then necessary to assist delivery directly and with totally externally applied force.

The general indications of possible calving problems are:

1. restlessness (with the cow getting up and down and turning around) and flicking the tail,

2. straining for over half an hour without resuks,

3. a small heifer and the appearance of a calf with large feet which hasn't

been delivered after two hours of straining.

4. a calf which is obviously not presenting properly:

two front feet and no head, or

a head and one or both feet retained, or

only one hind foot showing,

just the tail and buttocks of the calf showing

Figures 2. & 3. Examples of calf position which probably cause difficult delivery

3.4 What to Do in Assisting a Calving Cow

You can assist a cow to calve, but only provided there are two front feet and a head, or two hind feet presented. With any other combination of head and feet and, you should call a veterinarian, unless you are quite experienced with assisting in the delivery of difficult calvings. To assist a cow to calve you need at least:

1. a bucket of clean warm water,

2. a cake of clean bath soap and,

3. two lengths of 1/4" rope two metres long with loops in each end.

4. a rope or halter to tie her head to some fixed point

A cow can be assisted if she is sitting down or standing. Standing cows are easier to

work on. To get started you must:

1. restrain her with a halter or rope, unless she is already lying down and reluctant to move. If you put her in a head bale, make sure if she suddenly sits down that she will not choke.

2. Wash the vulva with soap and water, then wash your hands.

3. If the calf feels dry inside the cow, try to get as much slippery soapy water onto the calf to lubricate it to provide for its easy passage.

4. Attach the ropes to each of the legs above the second joint.

5. Pull downwards. Pull first on one leg and then on the other. Time the pulling to match the contractions. It is better to allow the cow to assist in expelling the calf in time with the contractions, and you must time your pulling with each contraction.

6. If the pulling fails to result in the calf being delivered without much effort on your part, call a veterinarian as quickly as possible.