of the Dam and Calf
- Determine if the cow is strong enough for delivery.
In some cases, diseases such as milk fever can cause dystocia
by causing muscle weakness.
- Tie the tail out of your way. Tie the tail to
the cow and not to any posts or part of the head catch so the
cow does not lose her tail when she moves or leaves the area.
- Thoroughly scrub your hands with soap, water,
and antiseptic (i.e. Chlorhexidine).
- Glove up with plastic obstetrical gloves.
- Thoroughly wash the dam's vulva, rectum,
and area around the vulva with warm water and a mild soap (i.e.
- Slowly insert your hands in the dam's vagina.
It may help to tuck your thumb under your fingers.
- Do not rupture the water sac if the cervix is
not fully dilated (if you cannot place 3-4 fingers in the cervix
it is not dilated at all) Once it is fully dilated it achieves
the same diameter as the vagina and becomes more difficult to
identify. If the cervix is not fully dilated WAIT!
- Use lubrication liberally - good lubrication
is extremely important. If you intervene early there should be
enough lubrication in the uterus, however, the longer the dystocia
persists the more natural lube you lose. Water based lubes are
the best to use. There are some on the market that come in a powder
that you mix with water.
- Determine the presentation, position, and posture
of the calf. If these are not normal or you have encountered a
delivery you have not seen before you may want to call for assistance.
Determining the forelimbs from
the hind limbs
In the forelimbs the fetlock and the knee bend in the same direction
whereas in the hindlimb the fetlock and the hock bend in opposite
directions. Keeping this in mind will help you to determine
the actions to take when delivering a calf.
- Determine if the calf is alive or not.
The following reflexes are used to determine if the calf is alive
- Withdrawal reflex - Pinching between the
digits of the hoof, the calf should withdraw its limb.
- Suckle reflex - Place your clean hand in
the calf's mouth and feel for the mouth to close and the
tongue to move.
- Check for a heartbeat - For a frontward
calf, run your hand down along side of the calf's chest
and feel for a heartbeat. If the calf is backwards feel
for a pulse in the umbilical cord.
- Rectal reflex - In a backwards calf, place
your finger in the rectum of the calf and the rectum will
contract around your finger.
The longer the cow has been in
dystocia the more the uterus has contracted around the calf
and the natural lubrication has decreased. If you do not have
enough room to correct the presentation, position, or posture,
generously apply lube within the uterus. This may help distend
the uterus enough to give you the extra room needed. One way
to apply the lube is to use an oral calf feeder that has a soft
bag attached to the tube. The end of the tube should have a
smooth end that should not cause any trauma to the cow or the
calf. The tube is placed in the uterus and the lube is squeezed
out around the calf. The lubricant and the application must
be clean/sterile or you will contaminate the uterus and increase
the likelihood of severe uterine infection.