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Local Vets since 1949


Calving season is a busy time of year for cattlemen and it is a critical step toward a productive year. The first rule is frequent observation of those cows due to calve, especially the first calf heifers.

Adequate facilities make a great difference in providing assistance at calving and also address occupational health and safety issues.


The first stage of labour is the cervical dilation period and will take 2–6 hours.
The second stage of labour is hen the head or feet of the calf enter the vagina and stimulates abdominal straining to expel the calf.

The actual delivery should only require 30 minutes to 2 hours of this straining. If no fetal parts enter the vagina because of problems in positioning, the cow may not show active straining, but she will show uneasiness and signs of discomfort. The calf will usually live for 8 to 10 hours after the abdominal straining begins.

You will need to examine the cow if:

  1. She has been in first stage labor for 3–6 hours and doesn’t start actively straining.
  2. She has been in second stage labor for 1–2 hours with little progress.
  3. The water sac or membranes have been evident for 1–2 hours with little progress.


Confine and restrain the cow so she'll not get away and waste time. Be clean. Wash off the rectal-vaginal area as well as your hand and arm. Us an obstetrical lubricant, a mild soap or shortening as a lubricant. Keep the fingers close together so as not to puncture the reproductive tract. Enter the vagina and identify the cervix, or at least the extent of its dilation; then determine the presentation and posture of the calf, as well as its relative size.


The “presentation” refers to whether the calf is coming forwards or backwards. Both of these are normal presentations and a calf should not be turned around just because it is coming backward. If cervical dilation is relatively complete, the water bag may be broken if necessary in order to examine the calf. If the cervix is not well dilated, you are probably rushing the process and should allow some more time. If you need a quick anatomy lesson to determine whether you have a front or back leg, compare joint for joint up the calf's leg while looking at the cow’s legs.


The “posture” refers to placement of the feet and head. In the frontward presentation, the normal posture is for both front feet and the head to be coming together in a “diving” position. In the backward presentation, the normal posture is for both hind feet to be coming together. Any deviations from this must be corrected before attempting to pull the calf. If a leg or the head is back, repel the calf back into the uterus between contractions and manipulate the calf body parts into proper position. Slow, steady pressure is the key to repelling a calf. Be careful in pushing the calf back in so you don’t rupture or tear the uterus. Cover the feet and mouth with your hand during manipulation so as not to puncture the uterus. A snare attached to the deviated body part will allow a much greater pulling force to be applied than what you can exert with only one hand in the uterus.

Getting the cow to stand up may allow more room for repositioning and result in less vigorous straining.

A true “breech” position is when the calf is coming backward and both hindlegs are retained in the uterus, rather than extending back into the vagina.


Have towels available to dry off the calf; iodine the navel; be sure it gets colostrum within 30–60 minutes; and warm it up if needed. Assist the cow in standing and keep her off of slick areas if she is wobbly.

24 hour farm visits

Warwick Vet Clinic offers 24 hour farm visits to assist you with calving – whether it be for a straight forward or difficult labour.