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
- 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.