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Preparing for the 2022 Calving Season

By Jessica Smith, PAg, Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, Swift Current

Calving season is quickly approaching or already underway for most cattle producers in Saskatchewan. It’s important to be prepared for any situations that may arise during calving – this is a busy season, making it difficult to leave the ranch for supplies.

This winter, during the Celebrating Rural Ranching Women virtual event, Dr. Karen Wagner, DVM of Maple Creek Veterinary Services, gave a presentation on tips for calving season. The following are some of her tips on how to prepare ahead of time and what to watch for when it comes to labour and calving difficulty.

Have all your calving supplies ready and organized

A little bit of preparation and organizing can save you valuable time and prevent frustration when a cow is needing assistance. Some of the items that may need to be located or purchased prior to the calving season would include:

  • A bucket
  • Disinfectant
  • Clean pulling chains and handles
  • Gloves and plastic sleeves
  • Lubrication
  • Calf puller
  • Bottles and tube feeding bag
  • Colostrum
  • Oxytocin
  • Epinephrine
  • Metacam

Know the stages of Labour

Observing your cattle and knowing when to help is one of the most important skills to have during calving time. Labour can typically be broken up into three stages.

Stage 1 – Can be about six hours long. During this stage the cow may appear restless and separate from the herd. The animal’s cervix becomes fully dilated and the mucous plug is released. If you don’t see any progress or pushing after six hours, it’s likely she is having difficulty.

Stage 2 – Labour is typically between one and three hours long. It can be described as the time from the appearance of the water bag until birth. If she has been in stage two for more than an hour and a half, the calf’s feet are not showing, it’s been more than two hours and the calf has not been born or the calf has not been born within 30-45 minutes of the feet showing, you may need to intervene.

Stage 3 – The passage of the placenta, which occurs within six to 24 hours of birth.

Know what to do in case of dystocia (difficult labour)

If you think a cow is having difficulty calving, first do a vaginal exam to determine how the calf is situated in the cow and then decide if it may be possible to assist the cow by pulling the calf. Common malpresentations to watch for include backwards, breech, one/both front feet back or down, head back, twins and upside down. Dr. Wagner recommends seeking help if you haven’t made any progress in 15 minutes of assisted labour.

Calving season can be stressful, so reach out for help when needed.

If you would like more information on this topic, contact your local livestock and feed extension specialist or call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

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