During the week I visited with a long term cattle rancher friend of the extension office. He was talking to me about a particular heifer and his concerns about first time calving. For ranchers, the calf crop is critical. No calf- no business, simple as that. As Johhny (name changed intentionally) was telling me about the situation, I help him making the right decision during the process. Calving difficulty is a concern of every cattleman because it is a major cause of calf deaths and is second only to rebreeding failures in reducing calf crop percentages. Cows that have difficulty during calving have significantly lower fertility at rebreeding. Prevention through good heifer management and proper bull selection is the best treatment for calving difficulties. Even with the best management, though, a certain percentage of young heifers will experience difficulty to some degree, and even older cows occasionally have difficulty. Watching a good heifer or cow go through the agonies of a problem birth is not an uncommon experience for anyone in the cattle business. Probably the most frustrating aspect is trying to decide when and how to assist and whether or not professional attention is needed. Many cattlemen attempt to correct problems that they have neither the instruments nor the knowledge to handle, while others refuse to intervene in even the simplest dystocia problems. Neither approach is good. The rancher and veterinarian should cooperate to deal with problems. All cattlemen should be able to recognize early signs of dystocia and determine when or if professional help is needed. To reduce calving losses, cattlemen must understand the progressive stages of birth and the time interval of each stage. This knowledge can be gained by frequently observing the birth process. Familiarity with each stage of birth as well as the skeletal structure of the cow helps one to determine when and how assistance may be provided. For Johhny, the value of the heifer and the high risk of calving difficulties warrantied the early involvement of his veterinarian, and the heifer as far and I know, was promptly brought into his vet clinic for care. I am looking forward to find out what happened with the heifer!. For more information on this or any other agricultural topic please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Mario Villarino, Texas A&M-Agrilife Extension Agent