Anterior presentation - The head and both forelimbs of the calf are in the birth canal

Cervix - Part of the cow's reproductive tract. This needs to dilate in order for calving to occur ( See Anatomy page )

Dorsal - This refers to the back or top of the animal, or can mean that the calf is right side up (the calf's back is up against the cow's back)

Forelimbs vs hindlimbs - 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.


Meconium staining - Sign of fetal distress. This is actually the feces of the calf.

Milk fever - Low blood calcium. This affects all of the muscles including those that are required for contractions of the uterus.

Posterior presentation - The hindlimbs are in the birth canal

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.

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.

Prolapse - When the uterus (or the vuvla or rectum) is visable outside of the cow.

Splay leg - Due to nerve damage. The cow is unable to pull her legs together and may not be able to stand up.

Stage 1 - This stage, lasting 2-6 hours (can be a couple of hours longer in heifers), begins with initial labor and ends when the cervix is fully dilated and the calf has entered the birth canal. The end of stage 1 is marked by the observation of the water sac. The cow may show signs of discomfort by kicking at her belly, and becoming restless due to contractions. She may separate herself from the rest of the cows and urinate frequently. These signs are especially evident in heifers.

Statge 2 - In this stage, that lasts 1-2 hours for cows and 2-4 hours for heifers, the cervix is fully dilated, the cow may lie down, contractions will increase and abdominal pushing is obvious. This stage ends with delivery of the calf.

Stage 3 - After the birth of the calf, the placenta should be delivered within 6 hours.

Uterus - Part of the cow's reproductive tract that carries the fetus during pregnancy (see anatomy page)

Uterine torsion - Twisting of the uterus and the cervix

Vagina - Part of the cow's reproductive tract (see anatomy page)

Ventral - Refers to the belly or bottom of the animal, or means that the calf is upside down.

Vulva - Outter most part of the cow's reproductive tract. (see anatomy page)


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