If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was some vast, bovine conspiracy. Instead of happening when you have plenty of time, enough sleep, experienced help and good weather, calving difficulties rarely occur at an opportune time.

Still, it’s essential to be prepared, because relatively simple interventions have the potential to significantly reduce the impact of dystocia on calf mortality and morbidity, as well as future cow fertility, says Maarten Drost, University of Florida veterinarian.

However, never start pulling blindly when presented with a cow having calving trouble, he cautions. Always make the decision as to whether the calf can be pulled with reasonable force — or if more drastic measures will be necessary. You also must know the calf’s position and take time to clean up and acquire ample lubrication before performing a physical exam.

To help make these determinations, check out this Visual Guide to Bovine Reproduction. Once there, click on obstetrics to see a pictorial guide to a variety of delivery challenges, as well as a flow chart (under Calving Problems), and much more to help you and your staff bone-up on calving assistance recommendations.

Also follow this handy on-farm calving management protocol.