Beef Cattle Calving Problems - Some Causes
Some of the causes for beef cattle calving problems.
About 80 percent of all calves lost at birth are anatomically normal. Most
of them die because of injuries or suffocation resulting from difficult or delayed parturition (calving). Factors
contributing to calving difficulty usually fall into three main categories -- calf effects, cow effects and
fetal position at birth.
birth weights account for most of the problems related to the calf. Birth weights are influenced by breed of the
sire, bull within a breed, sex of the calf, age of the cow and, to a slight degree, nutrition of the cow. Shape of
the calf may also have a small effect.
Several factors associated with the cow influence
dystocia, the major ones being her age and pelvic size.
First-calf heifers require more assistance in calving than do cows, because they
are usually structurally smaller.
Pelvic area (birth canal) increases as the female
develops to maturity. Thus, a higher proportion of calving difficulty in 2- or 3-year-old cows is due to smaller
pelvic openings. Heifers and cows with small pelvic areas are likely to require assistance at calving. However,
even heifers with a large pelvic area may need help delivering large calves.
The calf's birth weight and cow's pelvic area have a combined effect on dystocia. Many
heifers giving birth to calves weighing more than 80 pounds will have difficulty, even if they have large pelvic
areas. Two-year-old heifers tend to have either a pelvis too small or a calf too large to allow them to deliver
without assistance. Therefore, calving problems could be reduced by decreasing birth weight through bull selection
and/or increasing pelvic area by selecting the larger, more growthy heifers.
Fetal position at birth
bout 5 percent of the calves at birth are
in abnormal positions, such as forelegs or head turned back, breech, rear end position, sideways or rotated, etc.
(Figure 1). This requires the assistance of a veterinarian or an experienced herdsman to position the fetus
correctly prior to delivery. If fetal position cannot be corrected, the veterinarian may have to perform a
Abnormal positions of the calf for delivery