How to Handle Cow-Calving Difficulties


| 7/20/2017 3:49:00 PM


Matilda at 48 hours

We chose to raise Dutch Belted cows on our homestead because heritage breed cows are good at taking care of themselves. They survive well on grass without grain supplements, they instinctively care for their young, and for the most part, they have easy births. Calving difficulties do happen though, and we want to be prepared when that happens.

How to Check for Calving Difficulties

How to recognize when your cow is in labor: Keep track of your cow’s due date and begin watching her about a week before. Labor could be underway if she goes off by herself, gives repeated low-pitch moo’s, and alternately stands and lies down. There’s no need for us humans to do a thing if calving progresses well.

When to call the veterinarian: We once lost a heifer when waiting too long to call the vet. Therefore, I want to share two calving situations where our intervention may be necessary. If you have watched a cow in labor for an hour, and there is no progress, call the vet. If you see the bag of waters break and the calf is not born within 20 minutes, call the vet. In these situations, the cow and calf need assistance.

Learn to feel for calf position: There may indeed be times when we don’t know how long the cow has been in labor. There are other times, especially in the middle of the night, when five minutes seem like an hour. If you’re not sure what’s going on, and if your cow will allow it, go ahead and check for the calf’s position.



To check for the calf’s position before a hoof has even peeked out, halter the cow or put her in a head-gate or stanchion. Next gently put a gloved hand up the cow’s vagina no higher than your wrist. This gentleness is important because we don’t want to break the bag of waters. You should be able to feel a foot—hopefully two—with a nose just above and slightly behind the hoofs. If you feel two hoofs and a nose, stand way back and allow the cow the peace she needs to deliver the calf herself.





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