of Common Abnormal Presentations, Positions, and Postures
Abnormal presentations, positions, and postures
are best corrected while the cow is in the standing position. Once
corrected, the tests for delivery can be applied as previously described.
Try to carry out all these operations when the cow is not straining
vigorously. Before attempting assistance it is best to determine
if the calf is alive or dead and the relative strength of the calf
before attempting correction and manipulations. The reflexes used
for determining are:
1) Withdrawal reflex- Pinching between the digits
of the hoof, and the calf withdraws its limb in response.
2) Suckle reflex- Placing a clean hand in mouth you can feel the
calf's mouth close or tongue move.
3) Push in the calf's eye- Calf usually responds by withdrawing
4) Check for heartbeat- For a frontwards calf, run hand down along
side of the chest and feel for the heart beat, or in a backwards
calf feel for pulsation in the umbilical cord.
5) Rectal reflex- In backwards calf, sticking finger in rectum
should elicit contraction on the finger in a good strong followed
the survivability opportunities of the calf and dam are increased.
It is also important to realize that if the calf
seems to be moving excessively during the calving process it could
be in distress.
The second point to be made relative to providing assistance in
correction is to understand that the uterus has contracted down
on the calf from all directions. This has decreased the amount of
room within the uterus for corrective purposes. It is generally
advantageous to apply lubrication liberally within the uterus of
the cow before correction is started. In some instances, the use
of 4 to 5 gallons of warm water with lubricant in it will also help
distend the uterus to give you the extra room needed for correction.
Remember the earlier you intervene the less lube you are likely
going to need because there will still be enough fluid in the uterus
and it has not contracted down as much.
Lastly, the following guidelines are
recommended on when to call for professional help to maximize the
opportunity for a live calf. Professional assistance needs to be
defined as someone who knows more about handling the problem than
you do. The different level of experience among individuals will
dictate what problems you are requiring assistance in. Regardless
of the experience level, if these rules are followed the survivability
opportunities of the calf and dam are increased. The suggested guidelines
1) Don't know what problem you are dealing with.
2) Know the problem and the solution, but know you are unable
to handle the problem.
3) Know the problem and the solution; have tried and simply made
no progress in a 30 minute period. Further delays will simply
put the calf in jeopardy.
The following section contains
pictures using a calving demonstration box.
Elbow lock posture
If one or both of the forelimbs are not extended as they come into
the pelvic inlet, the partially flexed elbows may lock on the brim
of the pelvis and cause elbow lock. This is an easily corrected
problem requiring repulsion of the body of the calf while simultaneous
traction is exerted on the affected limb.
A common presentation of a calf with an elbow lock is that one leg
is further out of the vulva than the other leg.
Deviation of the head
If the head cannot be felt, do not assume that the calf is coming
backward. The two front legs may be presented and the head deviated
to the side or down between the front legs. Before pulling on the
limbs, distinguish between forelimbs and hind limbs as described
If the head is bent back into the right flank of the cow it will
be easier to correct if the left hand is used and vice versa. By
grasping the muzzle or by placing the thumb and middle finger in
the eye sockets, the head can be raised and directed into the pelvis.
A loop of soft rope or chain placed in the mouth and looped up around
the poll of the head behind the ears will sometimes be helpful.
The honda of the rope may be placed next to the mouth and the rope
placed above the tongue of the calf. In some instances, looping
the rope around the lower jaw may be used instead. However, it is
easy to use excess traction and fracture the lower jaw, so this
should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Also, if the lower
jaw is grasped it can allow the sharp teeth to tear the uterus
These calves usually present with
only two legs visible at the vulva.
In all these cases, the head can be brought up and
straightened more easily if the body of the calf is at the same
time repelled further back into the uterus. This can be done by
placing the hand between the front legs and pushing back the chest
while the head is being pulled into the pelvis at the same time.
In some instances, it is necessary to create even more room to correct
the head. This may require one of the front legs to be pushed back
into the uterus to create a retained front leg that is flexed at
the shoulder. In the case where the head is between the front legs
this needs to be done first. This would allow you to manipulate
the head into first a lateral deviation and then correct as previously
described. It should be pointed out that many of the calves with
the head deviated between the front legs are dead or weak before
you even start. In addition, many of the calves with a deviated
head will still fail the test for delivery for using forced extraction
once they are corrected. Therefore, good judgment needs to be used
before putting excess stress on the calf during assistance.
Retention of one or both forelimbs
The calf may have the head out, but one
or both forelegs retained. Secure the head by placing a chain behind
the poll and through the mouth, then lubricate the head and push
it back into the uterus. Then search for the limbs one at a time.
If fully retained, the limb should be grasped just below the knee
(carpus) and the limb be pulled until bent at the knee. Once this
is accomplished you can generally slip a hand down the limb and
grasp the hoof. It is necessary to cup the hoof such that you are
providing protection for the uterus of the cow as you continue in
the correction process.
To correct, now opposing forces need to be applied simultaneously.
The knee should be repelled by one hand in a forward-upward-lateral
direction and traction on the hoof in a medial-backward direction
by the other hand. These directions are relative to the cow. It
may be necessary to use a small rope or chain and place around the
leg above the fetlock and between the digits of the hoof if getting
both arms in the cow is a problem. If the other leg is retained,
it is corrected in a similar fashion.
Retention of one leg
Retention of both legs
Backward Presentation; Breech Posture
The correction of this abnormal posture is the same as the retained
forelimb. First, you find the hock and pull it until it is in the
flexed position. Then, you slip your one hand down to cup the hoof.
The hock should be repelled by one hand in a forward-upward-lateral
(outward) direction and traction on the hoof in a medial-backward
direction by the other hand. In some instances, the calf has to
be repelled back into the uterus before correction can be made.
Occasionally, it is difficult to get both hands into the cow for
correction. In these instances, the use of a toilet plunger as a
repulsion device against the rump of the calf has worked effectively.
You may not see anything at the vulva.
When you palpate a true breech you will only feel the tail
Upside down position of the calf
Occasionally, we encounter an abnormal positioning of the calf in
either the frontwards or backwards presentation. In such a case,
each forelimb should be secured with a chain and carefully pulled
into the birth canal. The most common method is to cross the limbs
of the calf, one on top of the other, and try to rotate the calf.
The head should be rotated at the same time. Rotation is facilitated
if the hand can be placed under the withers or under the shoulder
joint of the calf, the object being to lift the chest upward and
at the same time attempt to rotate the body. Insure that you use
plenty of lubrication.
Correction of an upside down backwards calf is usually easier. If
the calf is on its back with the hind limbs in the passage, cross
the hind limbs. Apply the tests for delivery previously mentioned
for a backwards calf and continue rotation of the calf if you find
you are able to pull the hips of the calf through the pelvis of
the cow easily.
Occasionally, calves lie with their back against the pelvic opening
or with all four limbs extended into the birth canal. Determine
the hind from the forelimbs and if possible, deliver hind limbs
first so you don't have to worry about the head. Since the calf
is on its side, it's easier to rotate the calf's body by the hind
legs than the forelegs. This requires repulsion of the forelimbs
of the calf and usually the trunk of the calf as well. In most instances,
this is a difficult correction to make and a c-section may be necessary
to deliver the calf.
If twins enter the vagina one at a time, there is generally no problem
due to a smaller size. However, occasionally twins are presented
together and block the birth canal. In most of these cases, one
comes frontwards and the other backwards. Extract the closest twin
first. If in doubt, first extract the twin presenting hind legs,
after first repelling the other twin back into the uterus.