The calf must enter the birth canal in a certain
position in order to have a normal delivery.
The terms presentation,
position, and posture are used to describe
how the calf is positioned in the birth canal. It is important
that everyone on your operation dealing with calving have
a basic understanding of these terms in order to communicate
with each other and with your veterinarian in cases of dystocia.
Presentation refers to whether the
calf is coming forward (anterior) with both front legs and
head extended into the birth canal, backwards (posterior)
with both hind legs extended into the birth canal (soles of
the hooves up and toes pointed down), or transverse with either
all four legs in the birth canal or the back of the calf entering
the birth canal. Both forward and backward presentations are
considered normal with forward being the most common. Keep
in mind that a backward presented calf is a high risk calving
because the umbilical cord is pinched off before the calf's
head is delivered. A transverse presentation is never normal.
Position refers to how the calf is positioned in relation
to the cow. If the calf's back is up towards the cows back
(spine) it is considered right-side up (dorsal). This is the
only position that is considered normal. If the calf's back
is down on the bottom of the pelvis it is upside down (ventral).
The calf may also be on either of it's sides; right-side down
or left-side down.
Posture refers to where the calf's
limbs and head are in relation to it's body. The limbs and
head should be extended into the birth canal. If the head
or one or both of the limbs is retained the calf is considered
malpositioned and needs to be adjusted prior to delivery.
The picture above is looking down onto the
calf as if you are above the cow.
The most common delivery is when the calf is
in a frontward presentation, a right-side up position, and with
both front limbs and head extended into the birth canal.
You will observe that the cow will have strong
abdominal presses while delivering the head and chest of the
calf, after which she will usually take a short break (5-10
minutes or less). During this time the umbilical cord is being
pinched off and you should notice the calf begin to breathe
on it's own. After the short break, the hind limbs should be