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A Comprehensive Guide to Calving

Calving is an event that ranchers look forward to every year. For it to go smoothly, with successful births and healthy calves and cows, you need to prepare ahead of time. Preparing for calving includes knowing the signs and stages of labor, the steps of the delivery process, and cleaning of the cow after calving. All of these are important for avoiding problems in newborn calves and preventing cow and calf loss. Here is more information about using calf pullers to aid calving, taking care of the cows, and raising bottle-fed calves. 

A Comprehensive Guide to Calving
Being prepared for calving is important for having healthy cows and calves

Calf Pullers to Aid Calving

Sometimes, you may need to use calving aid to assist birth. One of those methods involves using calf jacks and pullers. It is best to always have a calf puller at hand so you can use it in case natural birth is difficult. However, keep in mind that those devices can be forceful, which is why you need to have proper training in using them. Otherwise, you could cause damage to cows or calves. The best way to train is to ask your vet for assistance. 

How to Use a Calf Puller

When using a calf puller, the most comfortable position for the handler is for the cow to lay flat on her side. This position makes it easier for the cow to strain and also for the handler to use the calf puller. Align the base of the puller below the cow’s vulva and time the pulls to match cow’s contractions. Once the head of the calf comes out, you can apply more pressure on the puller, but the procedure is still very delicate, so take your time. 

Push on the calf puller toward the cow’s feet, because pulling it straight puts a lot of pressure on the calf’s spine, which could injure its ribcage during birth or paralyze it. Pulling downwards is also better than pulling straight because the hips of the calf pass through a wide part of the pelvis of the cow instead of catching on it. Once you can see that the last rib of the calf is out, it can start breathing. 

You can use calf pullers to aid calving
You can use calf pullers to aid calving

With natural birth, calves start breathing at this point by themselves. But when you use a calf puller, you might have to clear the calf’s airways to help them breathe. Assess the size of the calf at this point to know whether you should rotate its hips. You can also ease the delivery by adding more lubricant at this stage.  

Which Calf Puller Is Best for You

A calf puller should act as a tool to assist the calving process. Good calf pullers can usually put different pressure on the calf’s legs, pulling them one after another. Another important thing to consider is that the rod of the puller should be long enough. Aim for one at least 6 feet long, because you do not know the size of the calf in advance. Dr. Frank’s calf puller or Stone’s double-action calf puller are great choices. You can find both calf pullers at Animal Health Express and listed below: 

Neogen Dr. Franks Fetal Extractor

Stone Manufacturing Calf Puller Ratch-A-Pull

Also, you can always consult your vet for more options. 

Cow Uterine Care After Calving

Within 12-24 hours after calving, cows pass the placenta. If this has not happened, consult your vet to see whether there is a problem. Until the cow has passed the placenta and there is no more vaginal discharge, monitor the cow. Keep an eye for such factors as their appetite and body temperature. When you are sure the cow is OK, you can focus on managing the calves. But, this is also a great time to check the breeding health of cows to prepare for the calving next year. It is best to have a vet check whether the cows are cycling and whether they have any infections. This is especially relevant for cows whose calving was difficult.  

Raising Bottle-Fed Calves

The first three months of a calf’s life are crucial. There might be many reasons why you would have to feed the calves from a bottle. Perhaps a calf was rejected by its mother, or you just bought a very young calf. Or maybe the cow gave birth to twins and does not have enough milk supply. Whichever is the case, raising bottle-fed calves is not hard if you prepare in advance. Keep in mind that the very first time you feed the newborn calf has to be with colostrum. It has vital antibodies that work to protect the young calf from viruses and infections in his first weeks. Apart from that, colostrum is fatter than milk; therefore, the calf will receive more energy from it. Use a clean bottle to feed one-two quarts of colostrum to the calf. And for your convenience, a new product is available with its own bag and oral feeder tube. Check it out below:

It is a tremendous product – comes with its own bag, and feeding tube.

Freeze and store colostrum from the previous year to use it again
Freeze and store colostrum from the previous year to use it again

How to Feed

It is a good idea to freeze and store colostrum from the previous year. It will come in handy in case you cannot find where to get it. You can also buy a colostrum replacer and use it instead, but of course, the real thing is better. After you have fed the calf with colostrum a few times during its first day, you can use milk from a cow or a milk replacer and feed the calf from a bottle. A choice of the bottle is also important here. See that the nipple is the right size. Also, make sure the hole in the bottle is not too small so that the calf can get enough milk. Warm up the milk if it is not warm enough, or the calf might refuse to drink it. Cold milk can affect the calf’s stomach/intestines such that they will not absorb it.

Young calves need feeding every 8 hours, and when they get older, this can be adjusted to once every 12 hours. Usually, you will feed a calf from a bottle for about four months, and after you teach it how to eat solid food, you can stop giving them milk. But always make sure that the calf can eat an adequate amount of grains or grass before stopping milk supply.   

If their rumen does get stressed too much, then scours becomes a problem. There are many, many products to treat scours as well as electrolyte products to re-hydrate the calf. Below is an excellent new electrolyte and nutritional supplement to help fight scours in young calves.