In the spirit of the season lets pause for calf talk and a little about the amazing amount of new life all around us. Most calvings are normal and unassisted. The calf is the proper size and positioned correctly, front feet first, and the cow or heifer has a large enough birth canal and enough energy to push the calf out. Yet, an estimated 5% of calvings do not go as planned. Sometimes the calf is not positioned correctly, the calf is too big for the cow or heifer’s birth canal and/or the cow or heifer cannot push the calf out.
Calving occurs in three general stages. Stage one is the preparatory phase that can last up 12 hours. In this stage, the calf begins to rotate into the proper position, the cow’s body begins to prepare to push the calf out and begin contractions. Stage two is the actual birth of the calf and generally does not last more than 1 hour in adult cows and 2 hours in first calf heifers. In stage 2, contractions increase, the calf enters the birth canal and if all goes well, the umbilical cord breaks and healthy calf is born. Stage 3 is the passing of the placenta from the cow and typically lasts less than 8 hours.