With recent cattle prices any calf born is no longer worth $400-500. We are now looking at them being worth $650 to $1,000. And everyone is getting more intent on doing what ever they can to save them.
Let’s look at some tips to help save calves during calving season.
First, we all need to watch a calf being born naturally. Then when we go to assist a cow with delivery we need to mimic that as much as possible. When you watch a calf being delivered naturally, they actually change directions four times during the process. At first they are coming out at a slight 10-15 degree angle up until the feet are outside of the cow’s vulva. Then they are pushed straight out until the shoulders are almost through the birth canal. Then a live calf rotates approximately 45 degrees and they are coming in a downward fashion.
Most of us want to pull straight down as soon as we start pulling on the calf. Well, that works to some degree, but to fit the different shapes of the calves’ body through the pelvis easily, you do need to change directions just like they would in a normal natural delivery.
At first the calf is coming up to the birth canal, so by pulling slightly upward we will facilitate the normal delivery. Then we pull straight out. This will deliver the head. Normally I like to tease down and back to straight slightly while the forehead of the calf is coming through the vulva to allow it to stretch and not tear. Then as I am delivering the pelvis of the calf into the birth canal, I will let the calf rotate and start pulling downward in a severe fashion. This technique mimics natural deliver as much as I can.
By using these techniques, you can normally deliver a larger calf with less stress on the cow. These mean not as many go down and stay down, due to the trauma of birth or calving paralysis.
Calving paralysis is where we have had too, much natural anesthetic from delivery. As the calf is coming through the pelvis, two nerves are pinched off to allow some release of the pain of delivery. When these nerves are pinched off too, long they will not come back to normal function very fast or at all. This puts the cow down on the ground. Now nerves do regenerate, depending on the damage to them. Neurologists say we need to give the nerves at least 30 days to see if they are going to come back into functionality. By using a certain amount of anti-inflammatory medicine and slinging the cow or floating them we have gotten several back to walking normally. My record is 4 months and the cow got up by herself and was found traveling in the herd.
Dr. Tim E. O’Neill, DVM, owns Country Veterinary Service in Farmington, Ark.


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