“Palpating a calf can be confusing, but it is important to be able to envisage the position of the calf so one can reposition it to a normal calving presentation for a safe assisted birth.”
That is according to the Canadian-based Beef Research Council, which has produced a video on how to intervene with a difficult calving to provide timely best practice advice for farmers this calving season.
A spokesperson explained that if you determine in your initial examination of a cow or heifer that a calf is not presenting correctly for delivery, you will have to take steps to readjust its limbs and/or head position until it can present in the birth canal in either the posterior or anterior delivery position.
Some of the most common types of calf malpresentation include head back presentation, one leg back presentation, and breech presentation.
- Front limb – the first two joints will bend in the same direction;
- Hind leg – the first two joints will run in opposite directions.
The spokesperson advised that when dealing with a head-back position, you will need to push the calf back into the uterus by gently applying pressure when the cow is not contracting. Then, you can, slowly and carefully bring the head back into position.
It recommends grasping the muzzle, the ear or the lower jaw or by placing the thumb and middle figure in the eye sockets, the head can be raised and re-directed into the pelvis.
The spokesperson added: “Do not pull hard on a calf’s jaw because it can be broken easily. If it becomes necessary to pull on the jaw or the head, try to do it by hand or use a calving snare.”
“If a snare is used, apply the loop behind the poll and through the mouth. Protect the birth canal from laceration by the calf’s sharp teeth by guiding the head with your hand.”
“After the neck and head have passed through the cervix, traction should be applied to the legs only.”
“In the case of retained limbs, again, repel the calf back into the uterus by applying gentle pressure on the calf’s chest while the cow is resting.”
“Then the limbs should be grasped just above the fetlock and bent at the knee. Now, push the bent knee towards the spinal column and push back so as to bend all the joints of the limb.”
Meanwhile, they advised, gradually move your hand down the limb towards the fetlock and then grasp the hoof by placing your hand over the hoof capsule to protect the birth canal’s soft tissues.
Then, raise the fetlock over the pelvic brim to enable the leg to move forward and apply chains/ropes to their legs, once corrected, but always exercise caution and remember ‘the rule of three’, which we have explained in this news article on That’s Farming.
Note: The purpose of this article is to inform, but is not a substitute for professional advice – always seek your vet’s expertise.