Calvings that require assistance greatly increase the risk of reproductive problems in the following breeding season, and also reduce calf survival
There are three main causes of calving difficulties:
- Calves too big (due toexcessive dam nutrition or poor sire choice)
- Dams poorly grown (causedby poor management of maiden heifers)
- Dams over-fat (due to a loss ofcontrol over body condition).
Good management of cow nutrition using the Body Condition Scoring (BCS) system throughout the year can reduce problem calvings considerably. Similarly,
ensuring that maiden heifers are well grown at service, and subsequently fed well enough to allow them and their calves to continue growing, will encourage easier calvings.
First calvers are also still growing to their mature size as well as being pregnant so will also need preferential feeding where possible.
Do not feed excessively in late pregnancy as this will increase the birth weight of the unborn calf, leading to calving difficulties without improving the body condition of the cow.
Avoid difficult calvings through breeding
EBVs can be used to select bulls that will reduce the incidence of calving problems.
Choose sires with:
- Low birth weight EBVs
- Short gestation length EBVs
- Good EBVs for direct calving ease.
Calving the cow
Only intervene when a calving is not proceeding normally.
Uterine infections, eg endometritis (whites) can significantly delay the onset of cycling after calving, so it is important to practice good hygiene if a cow has to be examined while she is in labour.
Always wear full length AI gloves and use lubrication to assist the smooth passage of the live calf. Disinfect any calving equipment between each calving. Reduce stocking density in calving yards and replace bedding before each cow calves.