The immediate survival of a calf experiencing a dystocia birth is critical, but the effects of dystocia can put the calf at a higher risk of death or illness in the first four months of life. The USDA NAHMS Dairy 2007 report says that calves experiencing a dystocia have a higher risk of being stillborn. In dairy cattle, stillborn is usually defined as death at or within 24 to 48 hours of delivery. 2002 data from Meyer et al. showed the reported stillbirth rate for dairy calves based on 666,341 calving records was 7%, and a 2007 study by Lombard et al. of three Colorado dairies reported a stillbirth rate of 8.2%.

What dystocia does

Calves experiencing a prolonged dystocia are likely to have low levels of oxygen in their blood (hypoxia), and their blood pH is frequently acidic (acidosis) instead of neutral. These impairments lead to a cascade of events, such as decreased ability to nurse, decreased absorption of IgG, and poor temperature regulation.     

Calf problems associated with dystocia are most profound in the time immediately after birth. Dystocia is the major cause of stillbirth and approximately half of the calf losses from birth to weaning occur in the first day of life. Read the full story from Bovine Veterinarian.