Raising Cattle: Complications After Birth

Common complications that can occur after dairy cows give birth, and how to treat them.

| September/October 1972

Beginning farmers 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. R.J. Holliday DVM, a veterinarian in Missouri and MOTHER contributor, intends to remedy, the situation.  

The birth of any animal on a homestead is a joyous occasion. It's best if the new-born arrives unassisted, of course, but—if not—there's a great deal of satisfaction for the dedicated herdsman in the knowledge that he has the skills to enable him to help bring a new life into the world.

In any event, it is sometimes easy to get too caught up in the wonder of a new delivery. So caught up that we tend to forget that the event marks both the end of the gestation period and the beginning of a potentially critical term in the life of the mother and new baby. For it is at this time, in the case of cattle, that the cow is very susceptible to complications arising front parturition and the metabolic conditions that result from the rapid changes taking place in her body chemistry as she meets the demands of her new role. The calf also is more prone to certain disease conditions immediately after making the drastic adjustment he has to make in order to survive outside the safe confines of his dam's womb.

In the natural state then, the period immediately following birth is a time of testing. The death of the weak and unfit serves to strengthen the hardiness of succeeding generations, and many of the livestock problems we now encounter are the result of man's interference with this natural selection.

It should be the primary goal of any good herdsman to try to manage his animals' environment so as to prevent the development of high-stress conditions . . . but, when such situations do arise, the animals involved should gradually be eliminated from the herd. Your homestead will never be so ideal that it will not be necessary for you to be aware of the problems that may be encountered, their causes, their seriousnessand—most important of all—a suitable ecologically sound remedy for them. In this chapter we'll consider the complications that can arise after a cow has given birth.

Calving Paralysis

Calving paralysis or postpartum paraplegia. can occur as the result of an unassisted births but more often than not is the result of the forced extraction of a relatively large fetus. The large nerve trunks that carry both sensory and motor impulses to and from the mother's hind legs have the misfortune of lying along the inside of the pelvis where they are easily damaged by the passage of a large calf. Injury to the nerves themselves or pressure caused by injury to surrounding tissue can quite effectively halt the flow of nerve impulses past the affected area.

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