Raising Cattle: Delivering a Calf on the Modern Homestead

A step-by-step guide to the delivery of a calf, including potential problems.

| July/August 1972

Click on the Image Gallery link above to see referenced figures. 

Beginning homesteaders usually do pretty well with gardens, chopping wood and building outhouses... but the birth of that first calf or litter of pigs generally sets 'em back a couple of notches. The actual delivery of a calf (indeed, any young animal) invokes at least two factors of a purely mechanical nature. These factors must be understood before any attempt is made to forcibly extract a fetus. Failure to consider them can cause serious crippling or death to the mother and to the offspring, even though, the delivery may actually be accomplished by the excessive application of force. If you are raising cattle on your homestead, an understanding of the birth process will help you assist in the delivery of calves.

Except in some uncommon conditions, the soft tissues of the dam's birth canal can be stretched to accommodate almost and size calf. In similar fashion, the soft tissues of the fetus can be compressed to a considerable degree. Any problem that exists then must be thought of not only as a problem of relative size relationships but, also as a problem of aligning the skeleton of the fetus with the greatest diameter of the pelvic bones off the dam.


Normal Delivery of a Calf


Figure 1 shows the position of the calf shortly before parturition begins. Figure 2 is a simplified side view of a normal pelvis. Note that the opening through the pelvis is slightly tipped. Thus, improperly applied traction forces the path of the fetus to follow line A while the normal path of the fetus should follow the curved path traced by Line B.

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