Losses due to dystocia can be very costly to dairy producers. Gustavo Schuenemann, veterinarian and professor in the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at Ohio State University offers the following helpful calving management tips:
Know when to intervene: Being able to recognize the calving signs in a timely manner is critical for positive outcomes. Generally, once the amniotic sac or “water bag” appears, birth should occur within one-hour. As a guideline, intervention is needed when there is not calving progress one- hour after the water bag appears. Call your veterinarian if there is no progress 30 minutes after your intervention. For first-calf heifers, once the nose/feet of the calf are out, help finish. For backward presentation, help out. Have written calving protocols available (i.e., frequency of observations, when/how it is appropriate to intervene).
Keep the cow clean: Cleanliness of the perineal region (dirt-manure around the birth canal) of cows at the time of calving is significantly associated with metritis. Maximize cow comfort in the close-up pen and keep your calving pen/area clean and dry. If intervention is required:
- Wash the perennial region with soap-disinfectant and water;
- Sanitize obstetric chains, and;
- Use lubricant and wear disposable gloves.
Train calving personnel: Calving protocols should be reviewed (and adjusted if necessary) twice per year. Make sure that your calving personnel know what to look for and why it is important. Also they should be able to communicate calving records with the farm team, and follow the written calving protocols. If the incidence of stillbirth is around 15 percent, provide training to your calving personnel (keep the incidence of stillbirth below 6 percent).