On-farm calving management protocol

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  1. Move cow/heifer to calving pasture 3-4 weeks before due date. Be ready to move her to an individual calving pen (if facilities allow) as calving commences.
  2. Post a list with due dates.
  3. Observe for signs of calving first thing in the morning and just before dark, and every 2 to 4 hours in between.
  4. Labor starts when the first water bag breaks:
    • Allow cows 1- 4 hours before assistance; must make some progress during this time.
    • Allow heifers 2 - 6 hours before assistance: must make some progress during this time.
  5. When there is no progress:
    • Examine the birth canal after washing the heifer and your arms, using lots of lubrication.
    • Remember: CLEANLINESS and LUBRICATION are critical
    • Next, determine whether the calf is coming head-first or backwards, and whether both legs are present and extended
  6. Rules for deciding if there is enough room to pull the calf:
    • When head-first: if you can pull both pasterns 5 inches outside the vulva.
    • When backwards: if you can get both hocks to show at the vulva.
    • If there is not enough room, call your veterinarian.
  7. Do not pull calves in a chute or in a lane. Put a halter on the cow or heifer and tie her low to a fence post or restrain her in the individual calving pen.
    • Casting the cow before pulling is an advantage.
    • When pulling, pull only when the heifer/cow strains.
  8. After the calf has been delivered:
    • Make sure it is breathing — clean the nostrils, dump cold water on head.
    • Check heifer/cow for another calf and for vaginal tears.
    • Give the cow 1 cubic centimeter (cc) of oxytocin intermuscularly
    • Check udder for colostrum and mastitis.
    • Treat the calf’s navel with tincture of iodine (7 percent).
    • Weigh the calf and record result.
    • Tag the calf and record number in your records.
    • Make sure the calf gets colostrum within two hours of birth.
  9. Record the degree of calving difficulty:
    • Normal, unassisted calving
    • Easy pull or correction of head/limb.
    • Hard pull, two men required.
    • Very hard pull /calf puller.
    • Very hard pull /calf puller.
    • Cesarean section.
  10. Supplies:
    • Rope halter
    • Lube
    • Calf puller
    • Casting rope
    • Vaseline
    • Calf scale
    • Tail rope
    • Nolvasan
    • Mats
    • Curry comb
    • Tincture of Iodine 7 percent
    • Cabinet
    • Hose with nozzle
    • Soap (30 and 60 inches)
    • Chains, 2 short, 1 long
    • Buckets (2)


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