Knowing some key resuscitation techniques can reduce newborn calf losses, says Sheila McGuirk, veterinarian and professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
“If you are there during the first 10 minutes after the calf is born and the calf is not righting itself and isn’t sitting sternally, you can mimic what the cow does,” McGuirk said at the 2011 Dairy Calf & Heifer Conference.
The cow licks the calf from the tail head along the topline in a backward direction. You can simulate this behavior by rubbing the calf vigorously with a clean, dry towel from the tail head toward her neck.
“That simulation is an enormously helpful way to get that calf to stretch out and breathe,” McGuirk said.
To encourage fluid drainage, lay the calf across a bale. Let only the head drape over the edge of the bale. Do not swing the calf, hang it over a gate or pound on its ribcage.
“You don’t want pressure on the abdominal organs shoved up into the diaphragm,” McGuirk said.
To further stimulate the calf, use a towel to mimic how the cow licks the calf’s face, ears and eyes. This action provides “tremendous sensory influence” to encourage the calf to breathe.
There also are pressure points on the calf’s nose that you can stimulate. To do so, use a nose tongs to gently pinch across the septum of the nose.