Source: National Farm Animal Care Council, Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle Section 2.1
The majority of beef cows calve without assistance. However, careful monitoring of calving cows ensures that assistance, when needed, can be provided in a timely fashion. Knowing when and how to provide calving assistance is an important management skill that will protect both the cow and calf in the event of problems.
Calving is divided into three stages of labour:
1st Stage of Labour
- lasts 3-72 hours
- pelvic ligaments relax
- cervical mucous plug released
- cow is restless and may separate from herd
- tail elevated
- sniffs ground, may turn head toward flank
- may begin straining.
2nd Stage of Labour
- begins with appearance of “water bag”
- ends with expulsion of calf
- should last 0.5-3 hours.
3rd Stage of Labour
- expulsion of placenta
- usually expelled by 8-12 hours after birth.
To learn more about how a normal calving should proceed and how to assist the calving cow, including common post-calving complications, see Appendix C.
Calving cattle must be monitored to identify calving difficulties and ensure prompt assistance when required.
Monitor and promptly assist calves and recently-calved cows showing signs of distress.
Caesarean sections must be conducted by a veterinarian or qualified trained personnel using accepted surgical techniques and appropriate local anesthesia and post-operative pain control.
Spaying must be carried out by a veterinarian or qualified trained personnel. Consult your veterinarian on pain control when spaying heifers.
- plan a breeding period to assist in implementing other herd management practices, such as vaccination and nutrition programs
- select sires carefully on the basis of predicted calving ease or the bull’s birth weight to reduce the likelihood of calving difficulties. Sire selection should also take into account the breed, size, age, and previous calving record of the females
- time the first breeding of heifers according to their overall physical development in order to prevent calving difficulties (dystocia) and other health problems. It is recommended that heifers be at least two-thirds of estimated mature body weight at first breeding, and 85% of mature body weight by calving (28)
- ensure that cows and heifers are in suitable body condition at the time of calving (suggested targets: heifers 3; cows 2.5)
- ensure proper use of equipment designed for pulling calves
- observe young calves regularly (preferably daily) to ensure that they are adequately nourished and are healthy.