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Thursday 13 August 2015

How and When to Intervene with Calving

In most instances of calving, there will be no need for assistance. In cases where intervention is necessary it is important to know when and how to carry out the assistance.

When to intervene with abnormal calving…

Stage 1if you suspect the cow has been in stage 1 of labor for over 8 hours, intervention is indicated.
Some abnormal deliveries do not allow the cow to progress into a normal stage 2 of labor. In other cases, the cow may be in a state of uterine inertia and will not go into stage 2 of labor.

Stage 2 – intervention is indicated if any of the following conditions of stage 2 exist…
·        If the water sac is visible for 2 hours and the cow is not trying.
·        If the cow has been trying for over 30 minutes and making no progress.
·        If the cow has quit trying for over a 15-20 minute period of time after a normal period of progress (note: breaks are normal as long as they do not exceed 5-10mins).
·        If the calf or cow is showing signs of excessive fatigue and stress (this could be seen as swollen tongue of the calf or profuse rectal bleeding from the cow).
·        If from an observational standpoint, you determine that the calf is in an abnormal presentation, position or posture.

Stage 3 – if the cow has not passed foetal membranes within 12 hours of calving, intervention and treatment is necessary. (Note: manual removal of foetal membranes in most cases causes more problems than it saves).

Early Intervention – is extremely important in calf survival. ‘Early’ is defined as 30 minutes after presentation of the water sac with feet outside the vulva.

How to assist the cow…

First of all it is important to understand two key points.

1) Obstetrics is a branch of surgery and therefore cleanliness, asepsis and gentleness are of prime importance.

2) Obstetric cases should always be regarded with urgency but the actual intervention requires patience, bearing in mind the normal duration of the stages of labour.

The first thing to do before intervening with any cow is scrub up. Take time to thoroughly scrub hands and arms thoroughly antibacterial soap, warm water and antiseptic. As well as washing yourself, wash the cow too. Using the same washing components, wash the vulva and anal area plus any area in a 30cm radius from both.

The use of plastic palpation sleeves is recommended in most instances. 

However, when correcting calf positions, it is often easier to do so without, in order to increase the ability to feel and grip the limbs of the calf.

Once the cleaning process has been completed, the cow should be restrained. 
Tying a halter rope into the corner of a pen can be useful. The use of crush cages should be avoided as if a cow goes down inside the cage, the effects can be detrimental.

When the cow is restrained, apply generous amounts of obstetric lube to your hand. Insert your hand slowly into the vagina and do not rupture the water-sac unless the cervix is fully dilated. Determine the presentation, position and posture of the calf (i.e. which way it is facing, is it upside down, where are its limbs?). At this point, the assistant should decide whether the situation is within their capabilities. Calling a veterinary professional may be necessary and could save the life of both the calf and cow if anything goes wrong.

When to call for help…

Some situations are simply too difficult for a stockman to correct, without professional veterinary knowledge and access to equipment and medicines needed for successful delivery. It is essential that the stockman recognise their own limits and when to ask for help. At the end of the day, learning and watching a vet correct the position is better than learning from a fatal mistake.

The suggest guidelines on when to ask for help are…
·        If you don’t know what the problem is.
·        If you know the problem and solution, but know you are unable to handle it.
·        If you know the problem and solution; have tried to correct it but simply cannot progress within a 30 minute period.


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