Help for managing dystocia calves

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Calving difficulty affects between 13 percent to 15 percent of Holstein calves.

The survival rate of calves requiring assistance drops dramatically compared to unassisted births. Treatment rates for scours and pneumonia also are higher for dystocia calves.

“Providing special care, both in the first few hours and first two weeks, can cut both death losses and treatments for scours and/or pneumonia,” says Sam Leadley, calf management specialist with Attica (N.Y.) Veterinary Associates. Here are some steps to take to help a dystocia calf during the first 15 to 30 minutes after birth:

• Rub the calf vigorously with a bath-size towel. If needed, use more than one towel to get the calf’s hair coat “fluff-dry.”
• Establish a strong breathing pattern to overcome oxygen deprivation. Providing intense stimulation around the calf’s neck and shoulders helps with this.
• If oxygen is available, start supplementation as soon as the calf is on the ground.

For more information, see “Help for managing dystocia calves.”


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