Preventive Measures to Decrease the Incidence of Dystocia

There are many causes of dystocia, some that can be prevented and others that cannot. Many times there may be multiple causes involved in an individual dystocia incident. Even with all preventative measures, dystocia will occur in some animals. However, the most effective means of preventing dystocia losses is to manage animals to decrease occurrence.

  • Breeding/Genetics - The sire, as well as the dam, contributes to the size of the calf. Some dystocias are caused by too large of a calf in a small cow or especially in a heifer. Always be sure to breed your heifers to sires that are proven not to produce high birth weight calves. However, you may not want to go to the other extreme and select sires that produce very low birth weight calves either; small calves tend to grow into small heifers.

  • Nutrition - The cows/heifers should be supplied with enough calories to maintain body condition and fetal growth. The cows should not be underconditioned or overconditioned. Overconditioning may lead to calving disorders and metabolic problems, whereas underconditioning can lead to decreased production and reproductive performance. Overconditioned cows/heifers can accumulate fat around the pelvis causing a smaller birth canal. You should have a target body condition score of 3.25-3.5. You also want to be sure to maintain a normal calcium balance in the cows. This may be accomplished by feeding anionic salts and extra calcium prior to calving. If calcium levels drop you may have calving problems related to milk fever. If you are experiencing high rates of dystocia you may want to reevaluate your nutrition plan for your heifers and dry cows.

  • Observation of the cows/heifers close to calving - early intervention can help prevent some of the more difficult dystocias and calf deaths.

  • Educating your personnel - Knowing when to intervene and what to do is extremely important in decreasing the occurrence of more difficult dystocias and calf death losses.


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