What Should Be Done with All Calves After Calving

The following should be done with all calves, especially those that have experienced dystocia:

  • Place the calf on its sternum, to make chest movement and thus breathing easier.

Calf in sternal recumbancy

  • Remove any mucous from the calf's mouth and nose with your clean fingers.
  • Elevate the calf's neck, with the nose and mouth pointing down towards the floor to allow fluid to drain from the nose and mouth. DO NOT hang the calf upside down. Fluid in the lower airways will not drain this way and these fluids will be absorbed from the lungs anyway. More important is to get the calf breathing vigorously.
  • If the calf is not breathing very well, you can stimulate a response by tickling the inside of the nose with a clean straw or small rubber tube. When the calf responds it will breathe more vigorously and it will clear some of the fluid from the upper respiratory tact allowing the calf to inflate the lungs better. If this does not help the calf you will have to be a little more aggressive. Please see Calf Resuscitation
  • Vigorously rub and dry the calf with warm towels. A hair dryer is an inexpensive and great means to help dry the calf and fluff up the haircoat.

Drying a calf       

  • Lift the calf and help it stand. To encourage walking, pinch the calf along its back in front of the hips.
  • Feed the calf approx. 3 liters (3 quarts) of colostrum within 30 minutes of birth. If the calf does not have a suckle response you will need to tube feed the calf.
  • If the calf does not suckle all of the 3 quarts of colostrum by 2 hours of age, the remainder should be given by tubing. It is very important to get this much colostrum to the calf as soon as possible and not later than 2 hours old.
  • More colostrum should be given before the calf is 6 to 12 hours old. The second feeding should again be 2 to 3 quarts. All calves should have a minimum of 4 quarts of colostrum before 12 hours, but sooner is better again, the first feeding should be done by 2 hours or less.

        Bottle feeding a calf

  • Monitor the calf's rectal temperature at birth and at 30 minutes after birth. The calf's temperature should be around 102-103 degrees at birth and then fall to 101-102 degrees 30 minutes after birth. The calf should then maintain its temperature at 101-102 degrees. If the calf has a low temperature or is in a cold environment, calf jackets are available to help keep the calf warm.

  • Keep the calf in a sheltered environment out of severe weather and wind.
  • Dip the calf's navel in iodine. It is sufficient to just dip the outside of the navel in the iodine. Dipping the navel will not replace a clean environment or good hygiene.

Iodine and cup for dipping the navel                     Dipping the navel

  • Check for any trauma - i.e. broken legs, broken ribs, etc...
Top of Page


Table of Contents


Next Page



Previous Page




Colorado State University LogoIntegrated Livestock Management Logo