Shoot-n-the Bull: On Target Tips - Get Ready at Arm's Length

Winter is slowly moving forward. March will be roaring in like a lion very soon, so let’s prepare for spring calving season now because everyone wants a live calf on the ground when the time comes.

Here is a list of the basic items needed for better success when calving difficulties arise:

1. Use low birth rate bulls. This is the number one problem that contributes to dystocia in cattle. Do your homework nine months before, study EPD’s, and understand them. Do not ever purchase a “PRUDDY” bull.

2. Have birth mothers with plenty of room in their pelvis. Get someone to check them out.

3. As we discussed last month, a good workable location for calving speeds up the delivery time. Set aside a maternity lot designated for calving. Be able to run that cow into a confined area with lighting if possible and shelter in inclement weather. Multiple tie stations will be more convenient but do not use a chute to pull calves if at all possible.

4. Have a good strong lariat, know how to use it, and know how to quickly untie the rope if necessary.

5. Use some type of carrying case that is sturdy and washable to hold your equipment and supplies. You want to walk up to the cow and work out of the case at arm’s length. It should be large enough to carry all your needs and strong enough to survive being run over by an excited mother to be 

6. A calf puller is a must. There are all makes and models on the market. Ask your veterinarian which model they like and use. You need it to hold up for years and you need it to be easy to use. This is a big investment for you that will pay off with live calves as the years go by. Learn how to use this tool efficiently, quickly, and safely. Do not forget to keep it cleaned, disinfected, oiled, and stored in a heavy canvas bag. Failure of this tool will be a disaster in your emergency.

7. Purchase two pairs of obstetric chains 60 inches long. Make sure they are made of stainless steel and the welds are very strong. Nothing is more disgusting than a light pull on the calf and seeing the chain break. Keep the chains washed, oiled, and disinfected for the next use. Two obstetric handles are also useful for a quick tug before hooking up to the calf puller. I like having a calf snare available in case the head needs to be maneuvered into a location for an easier delivery.

8.  A roll of paper towels is good for quickly removing mucus from the nostrils and mouth of the newborn as well as for cleanup.

9. Plastic palpating sleeves are nice to have in order to explore the pelvic cavity and to decrease the introduction of infection into the uterus. It also keeps your arms cleaner. I also like to have a pair of latex exam gloves when I process the calf for the same reasons.

10. Lubrication is very important. Never enter a cow’s uterus with a dry arm. You are asking for trouble. Commercial products are available. Diluted dish soap from the kitchen in a plastic squeeze bottle works great as well.

11. Ten percent iodine should always be in your carrying case. Do not use the diluted version. If you get it on your hand and you cannot wash it off, then it is the right strength. Iodine is the best investment next to the rich colostrum of the mother to prevent sickness. At birth, apply iodine to the navel cord all the way up to the hairline. This will cauterize and dry up the navel cord to prevent it from acting like a wick to introduce infection into the newborn’s body. I always apply iodine to the hooves of the calf. Fresh newborn hooves can also act as a wick into the body during muddy season.

12. Insert two or three antibiotic uterine boluses into the mother’s uterus after calving. Usually, there is a delay with shedding of the afterbirth in dystocia cases and by administering the medication this will minimize infection later on.

13. Recognize early on if you are in trouble. Have your veterinarian’s phone number taped on the carrying case for a quick call. This person is truly your friend. They know how to deliver live calves if you will let them. A good rule of thumb is that a mature cow will normally deliver a calf 30 to 45 minutes once labor begins. A first calf heifer will take up to 2 hours. After that, you should call the vet!

14. Disinfectants are often forgotten. You have to take care of your investment in tools used in dystocia cases. Read the labels before purchasing or again ask your veterinarian which ones to use. Do not buy a harsh chemical that could hurt the tissue of the cow or decay your equipment.

15. In my carrying case I have a few extra items that save me time in order to process my calves: Tattoo pliers, number digits, ink, a tape measurer to measure head size, a weight tape to measure the foot for body weight at birth, ear tagger, tags, & ink marker.

Good luck in your calving season and I hope you can reach your goal  of all lives calves  in 2011!!!