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HomeBeefCalving advice: Remember ‘the rule of 3’ when pulling calves
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Calving advice: Remember ‘the rule of 3’ when pulling calves

Farmers must remember ‘the rule of 3’ when it comes to calving cows, the Canadian-based Beef Cattle Research Council has urged.

This means that you should only attempt to deliver a calf, it recommends, when you have:

  • Two front legs and a head – anterior (normal) position;
  • Two hind legs and a tail – posterior (backwards) position.

It recommends placing chains in a double half hitch which you should loop around the thin part of the leg above the fetlock.

Then, make a half hitch and tighten it below the joint and above the foot and ensure that the chain is positioned in such a manner that it goes over the top of the toes.

In this way, the pressure is applied to pull the sharp points of the calves’ hooves away from the soft tissue of the vaginal wall.

When pulling a normal presentation calf, use the see-saw method, it recommends.

This involves pulling one leg at a time, as this way, a wide-chested calf will enter the birth canal at an angle, easing delivery.

However, it must be noted that some advise against the use of chains and favour ropes instead.

Calving aid/jack

During a difficult calving, the body recommends, enlisting the assistance of a calving jack/aid, but advises that you should never use any more than 250 pounds of force or the strength of two people pulling at once.

A spokesperson explained in a video on its YouTube channel: “Always pull with a cow’s contractions and never against them.”

“Traction on the forward facing calf in the early stages should be exerted upwards in the direction of the tail head and not downwards.”

“Once the calf is in the pelvic cavity, traction should be straight backward and then downward.”

“The calf thus passes through the birth canal in the form of an arc.”

“If the passage of the hind end of the calf presents any difficulty, the body of the calf should be grasped and twisted to an angle of about 45 degrees.”

“Delivery is then made with the calf half-turned on its side, which allows for easier passage of a calf with well-developed stifle joints.”

Backwards position

If a calf is presenting in a posterior (backwards) position, it is helpful to cross the legs when pulling to rotate the calf’s hips and to avoid hip lock between the calf and cow’s hips, the spokesperson added.

“Of most importance is to know when to help and when to quit or when it is time to call your vet,” they concluded.

As always, exercise caution and do not undertake this if you do not know how to do so correctly.

Note: The purpose of this article is to inform, but is not a substitute for professional advice –  always seek your vet’s expertise.

Previous farming news article on That’s Farming:

See more articles from farming journalist, Catherina Cunnane

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