Mouldy hay, and macrocarpa, frequently cause cows to abort in later pregnancy.
It's not just fresh macrocarpa: Hay, made months earlier, and with dry "bits" of macrocarpa in it;
Have been known to cause abortions.
The cow may give birth prematurely. You may get a very small live calf.
It's hooves will appear chewed edges.
Skin will appear to be too big for the calf.
This calf will be challenged!!.. Mothers colostrum will not be
"complete" (with immunity, and nutrient goodies).
If you have frozen colostrum try it.. But the calf specialized cells
designed for absorbing colostrum may not be complete either.
After a feed of colostrum; encourage the calf to feed from it's mother.
to spray the calf's navel with iodine.
Frequently the mother may retain the afterbirth. Keep and eye
on her. If she appears healthy wait abut 10 - 11 days before calling the vet.
she is unwell do seek the vets help.
General (for cows,
deer, goat & sheep):
young are born is a dive position. (as per the sketch>)
The sole of the hooves is downwards.
rests on the legs.
The widest part of the foetus/newborn is at it's hips.
The foetus must pass through the mothers pelvic cavity.. Hormones ensure there
is some "give" as it passes through.
However.. You can avoid some
birth complications .. by not using a GOLIATH sized sire over your THUMBERLINA
A large foetus can be a challenge during parturition. (birthing)
management.. and your pre birthing stock.
Cows, in particular need to be
"managed" pre calving to avoid metabolic complications..
Please read through the "metabolic problems" page. (LHS of this page)
Timing of the birth
Animals should be able to give birth
to fit in with their "dietary" requirements.
The lactating mother needs generous amounts of feed/pasture to:
-Make milk for her
-To regain any lost body condition. (Cows in particular need body condition to
There needs to be plenty of pasture for the weaned young stock.. as pasture is
now their only feed.
need to have good body condition ONE MONTH prior to calving.
Pre calving: Cows are best farmed on a "maintenance" diet... (another
tool to reduce the
of metabolic complications)
Our seasons are changing!! We can no longer rely on warm ground temperatures to
boost clover growth. (clover is a good source of magnesium)
see the "metabolic problems" page.
The "Birth Canal":
<This diagram is of the "birth canal", and a cow in late pregnancy.
As yet this "foetus is NOT in birthing
position. "Labour" is several weeks away.
the 1st stage of labour:
The cervix begins to open (widen). Assisted by the shape of the uterus; The foetus then
gets itself into the birthing position. ie a diving position, by bringing it’s
legs up, and it positions it’s head so the nose is closest to the cervix.
The uterus is very generously
During labour / delivery these strong muscles work to push the newborn
up and in the direction of the cervix.
The shape of the foetus, and the strong
help in delivery.
Fluid, often referred to as
"Birthing Fluid", ensures
the foetus slides more easily through the birth canal.
The muscles of the uterus push the foetus upwards.
As the legs are narrow, and outstretched they enter the cervix.
The head which is much wider than the legs, rests
on the legs. The nose first, the nose being the narrower part of the head,
widens the cervix allowing the the rest of the head to pass through. The shoulders are the
widest part of the newborn.
When the shoulders are through the vagina, for an animal standing the weight of
the newborn, and the "birthing fluid" allow
the newborn to move further through the birth canal. In the photo: The cow
is standing, and this calf is about to "hit the ground". Some
animals lie on their side through parts, or all of the parturition process. The
uterine muscles can cope with doing all the "pushing out".
Twin birth.. The 1st twin is born without assistance, and was in the normal
"diving" position birth. (we presume)
The 2nd twin is presenting backwards. (this sometimes happens in twin births, as
both foeti need to fit in the uterus.)
In a backward presentation you'll notice the sole of the hooves, and the knees
point to the ground. It often pays to check if the tail is in between the legs.
If not, you will need to "go in" and position the tail in a downwards position,
so it is NOT an obstruction.
There is merit
in speeding up the birth.
Because; as the calf passes through the narrow birth canal, there is a chance
the umbilicus (the vital link to it's mother) will be pinched off.
This farmer uses ropes to pull the calf. Ropes are helpful. You can
help calve by pulling on both "ankles" equally. Most cows will stand
to give birth.
Gestation period is about 150 days.
Signs that birthing is close:
Frequency of urination and a low pitched bleating (this could indicate kidding is about 2 days away).
At the onset of labour a mucus plug is discharged, followed by small amounts of mucus.
The amniotic sac bursts usually about 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to the arrival of the first kid.
She looks behind her, lifts her tail up, her udder begins to fill.
Siblings are born 5 - 30 minutes apart.
Wipe any surplus fluid from the newborns nose and mouth.
The placenta is expelled about 2 hours after the last kid is born.
This is an excellent site:
For more information:
This is quite a "long" video..
Several days prior to lambing her udder will feel firm.
Closer to lambing you may notice her vulva swells, and you may notice a mucus
Just prior to lambing she may separate from the flock, and locate a quiet area
for herself. This is her chosen site for giving birth.. She will smell the
ground there. She may paw at the ground using her front feet.
Getting up, then lying down is a sign that she is in labour. You will notice the
membranes of the sac (which covers the newborn) as they appear through her
She will lamb (usually lying down) where the amniotic fluid falls.
The placenta is delivered 2-5 hours later. After lambing the lamb is groomed by its mother.
It usually stands 15 minutes after birth. The ewe recognises its lamb by its bleat its colour and its smell.
Caution hinds can become aggressive at calving/fawning time. (Park a vehicle so that hinds cannot approach from behind.)
she starts pacing the fenceline she could be starting to fawn. Then if she starts to pace more intently you can be more sure.
She may call out.
If she stands up, then lies down, or starts rolling on the ground, the birthing process has begun. Once the fawns feet are visible then normal birthing occurs within the hour. (Normal delivery 'dive' position, hooves downwards).
After the birth she will stand then sit. The fawn then struggles to stand. The fawn's movements, and the presence of amniotic fluid, attracts the hind/doe and helps her to accept it. The mother may nudge the fawn to help it to stand. The placenta is delivered about an hour and a half later. The mother licks her young clean. Fawns will suckle every 2-3 hours after for the first couple of days after birth. They rapidly gain weight.
Hinds/does will eat the faeces of their young (cows occasionally do this, too).
Keep a note of what is happening from a distance. Hinds may leave their infants if frightened. You'll end up bottle feeding them.
An informative article re the birthing of deer.http://deertracking.com/library/april03_springbrings.html
View a red deer giving birth:
Roe deer: (Nice photos)
lambing, kidding or fawning begins.
You can check for pregnancy by "ballotment".. By pushing against
her "bulge" (ie over her uterus), You'll notice the fetus will
move, and then return.
Sometimes you will notice foetal movements
just by observing.
In-calf cows rest.. Too lazy to get up if disturbed, especially on a
sunny day. (Other times of the year they usually start eating if disturbed.)
a notebook to record all details:
-eg: the mothers ID number (or name), and her expected birthing date.
Upon birthing: note date of birth, and newborns sex, and record the newborns
Spray: To spray the newborns navel area.
(spray the area
generously.) THIS IS IMPORTANT ..especially so in wet muddy
The iodine helps minimize the likelihood
of the newborn picking up "bugs" which cause an infection in it's navel..
infection in this area spreads rapidly to other
parts of it's body... It can lead to joint ill... and the animal may need to be
(It's much easier if you use "spray on"
iodine solution. An iodine solution especially for newborns navels should be
available from your
local farmer's supplies store.)
those who have
synchronized all their 1st calving heifers, there is merit in
dividing the group so they don't all calve
in the same paddock. This is to avoid confusion, as to which calf belongs
to which mother. They wont all calve on the due date.
fingernails well trimmed,
and keep them well scrubbed. This is in case you need to help with birthing.
or similar on hand. This is a solution which when applied to hands and arms
gives a very clean, and slippery surface should you need to do an internal
How can you tell if
there are problems.
-Tame cows, or a milking cow
(they're used to human contact), may attempt to attract your attention when having difficulty calving.
-If she has been walking around for quite some time, her udder bulging, and her tail is
elevated, or she flicks it.
-If she has been straining for too long. (ie the calf has NOT been born
after 2- 3 hours after the "waters have broken")
(Cow's calve faster than heifers. Heifers are known for taking their
time, and may even delay progress for an hour.! )
* Uterine contractions will eventually
really needs help when contractions have ceased.
You will need to examine her:
(Wash your hands, arms, and above your elbows.. then apply "lambing lubricant or
* Check to see that 2
hooves.. (soles downwards) followed by knees that bend downwards are visible
through the vulva.
*Always be aware that she could be having twins!! The legs you see may be
from 2 different calves!!
There can be all sorts of presentations:.. tail, hind legs, one leg, 1 leg from
It is easier to "work" with the cow when she is standing.. however she will
choose if she wishes to stand or lie down.
you are out of your comfort zone:
Phone your vet.
< You can learn lots from your vet. & Take the opportunity to ask your vet all sorts
the vet does a uterine examination, the vet will repositioning (rearrange) the calf
so it is in the "diving position".
After the calf has been delivered, the
vet will give her an antibiotic shot (usually a long acting antibiotic so a
repeat injection is not needed)
You can check
on progress or foetal position:
To check on the cows progress you may need to examine her vaginally.
fingernails need to be clean and short.
Your hands and arms need to be thorough washed.
You need your hands to be slippery to help them slide in. (Use: a "lambing
lubricant", KY jelly,
or an antiseptic cream. If you don't have
either, you can moistened you hands and arms with a basic
soap -not a perfumed beauty soap!!)
Position your hand so it is as narrow as possible when you insert your hand into
your hand goes up the vagina, you first need to notice if the cervix (the
entrance to the uterus) is dilated (widened) or not.
you feel just a small "hole" at the end of her vagina then the cervix is
not dilated. Don't continue any further.
website has illustrations)
Give the cow a shot / course of antibiotics if you have needed to enter
the doe pushes hard, then stands (stopping labour) then lies down and starts
again. She may also arch her back. She may elevate her 'tail end'. A
discharge that is rusty red and looks septic. Doe is in 'hard-out' labour for ½
- ¾ hour without results.
This website is very helpful:
If she is still straining for an hour after her water bag has burst and there is still no sign of a lamb.
Or clearly there is only on leg, or it is upside down.
Don't break the umbilical cord until your sure the lamb is breathing.
If your very new to assisting birthing animals..
Don't hesitate. Phone your vet
soon as possible.
Working with the vet is a great way to learn. Be sure to ask lots of question.
parts of the foetus is essential when correcting a mal-presentation. The vet may
even allow you to do an internal examination yourself so you can feel, and
identify parts yourself.
After hands have been used for an internal examination there is always the risk
of introducing infection. The vet will administer an antibiotic.
You can help if the presentation is normal, and the foetus appears jammed in the
pelvis by a pull.
fluid from the nose and mouth
of a newborn.
If the calf has a lot of mucous, wipe it away. You may inserting a straw into its nostril
.. just enough to make the calf sneeze.
This will help clear the nose, and help with breathing. Some farmers take the
newborn by the hind legs then swing it in a semicircle.
By holding the newborn so
the head and thorax are downwards for a short time, will allow the nose, trachea
and lungs to drain.
and signs of
her udder "bags up" (appears to be full of milk) several days prior to calving.
(But she may 'bag up' the night before.)
Be aware, sometimes it is difficult to tell if a cow has calved or not!
you observe a view as in the photo (left).. with 2 hooves showing, and hoof tips are pointed upwards, it can be a sign that birthing is
progressing normally. But keep an eye on her progress.
In the photo (right) the head is advancing through the vulva, and
the rest of the body will soon follow.
Assisting with birthing.
When giving birth goes "wrong" it is termed dystocia.
When helping with birthing you are aiding in the safe delivery of a newborn,
with minimal trauma to the mother
If you examine the mother internally you'll need to be able to identify the
foetal parts by feel..
If your very new to
helping with birthing perhaps studying a newborn may help. The foetus is a very
small version of the adult.
foetus is in an impossible position for parturition to continue.. or if
there are twins, or even triplets, it can be very confusing.
Note it's hooves (front and back) The knees face the tops of the hooves for
front feet. The front legs bend backwards.
The back legs: The bending part is at the rear of the leg. The back legs bend
Note it's head parts: It's ears, it's forehead, it's mouth.
Note it's tail.
It can be very confusing if your are dealing with twins (or more!!), as
there will be twice (or thrice!!) as many body parts to identify.
After safely delivering one newborn, then routinely check to feel if there
is a twin still inside.
Administer an antibiotic to the mother after examining or having helped
reposition and deliver her newborn. This will help reduce the likelihood of an
so the foetus can be safely born:
Have the cow restrained so you can work
easily with her..
Be aware of how easily infections can be introduced, so have your finger nails
cut, and clean. Wash your hands thoroughly.
Clean any dung away from her vulva before you start..
When repositioning limbs, place your hands over the sharp edges of the hooves. This
helps prevent their
sharp edges breaking the lining of the
Basically you're gently repositioning the head, and limbs so the front legs are
positioned into the cervix..
Sometimes the foetus must be pushed backwards into the uterus to allow the
"helper" to reach the other foot and bring it out.
Care must be taken with the calf's head also. The head should be resting
on the front legs.
It can easily turn sideways during an assisted birth. Using a rope/chain
around the calf's head as illustrated will hold the head in the correct
If the chain goes through the mouth, the the calf's
nose will be lifted
then the chain/rope is pulled.
The sketch (right) shows the correct position of chains/rope when
pulling the calf..
Work in with the uterine contractions.
Dystocia in deer:
Leave deer alone at fawning is the rule. Disturbing her herdmates is not a good idea. A small number of hinds do require assistance. Some years, for some reason, more hinds will need assistance.
Physical fitness in winter and spring, social stability of the group, and a quiet paddock environment are presumed to positively reduce dystocia.
Beware of "burglar
Sometimes it's difficult to tell if a
"mother" has given birth or not. "Clucky" / "super mothers" or burglar
cows or ewes" are usually older mothers. They will steal the newborn from a
herd/flockmate. They may attempt to feed someone else's newborn while they
themselves are in the early stages of labour. I've seen 2 cows fight over the
ownership of a calf.
We'd purchased 5 calves, and had very successfully mothered them up to their
adopted mother. Later in the week I found 4 calves sucking on the one mother.
The 5th calf was in amongst the 4 calves waiting her turn at a teat!!
Frequent checking on pregnant stock, and ear tagging as soon as the newborn
"hits the ground" will minimize some of this confusion.
Uterus after Parturition:
After birth the uterus involutes. Involution is the "process" (in all mammals)
where the uterus returns to it's pre-pregnant size.
The length of involution varies with each species.. In a cow the average
length of time is 6 - 7 weeks.
Retained placenta in cows:
Usually the placenta is expelled shortly after delivery.
Sometimes the membranes will hang from the vagina. Usually it looks messy
as the cow adds splashes of urine, and it's dung to the trail of membranes!!!
The retained membranes possibly wont cause any problems. The uterus is involuting,
and this will help the membranes to separate. If the cow is clearly unwell contact the vet.
If the cow appears healthy wait for several days, perhaps up to 10 days
before contacting a vet..
When mammals give birth the newborn must pass through the cavity of the pelvis.
BIG calves, a prolonged, or difficult calving can cause damage to the obturator
nerve as it passes through this “hole” in
the solid bony pelvis.
Some breeds are said to predispose to calving paralysis more than other breeds.
Jerseys are said to be the easy calvers.
The cow will be “down”, but she will be alert. If there is grass in her reach
she will be eating.
She won’t be able to get up. Some cows will “sulk” and won’t even try.
Treating this cow will take time. You cant rush "this job", so allow
plenty of time.
Success depends on:
The severity of the damage, and the cows attitude!!.
She may be able to eat grass.. but you'll need to bring her water, and in a
container so she can easily drink from it.
will need a tractor with a front end loader,
and chain for attaching,
or a cow sling.
(From my experience with cow slings.. there are different sizes of slings.
A sling designed for a large cow will be too large for a smaller breed.)
The sulky cow!!!
Driving your noisy tractor very close to your paralyzed cow is usually
enough to scare her into making an attempt to get up!!
(Both photos were obtained from the Shoof catalogue:)
aims of rehabilitation.
Physiotherapy, and without further injuries to the cow.
The cow needs to be positioned into standing with the aid of the either clamps
or a sling.
The sling is applied by rolling the cow.. over onto a 1/2 rolled up sling...
then roll again to straighten up the sling.
With clamps you need to be as gentle as possible. Some farmers put
padding around the clamps parts to make it more comfortable for the cow.
The idea is to position the cow into the correct standing position, and leave her in this position
for a while.
After all she has been sitting down for quite a while, and she'll appreciate the
change of position.!
I never leave animals when they are pulled up with hip clamps. Should
she slip, (and it can happen) the poor cow is left dangling, and is most
As she appears steady you can slightly slacken the sling or the chain so the cow is in the position of
taking her weight.
Observe how she manages.
Don't hesitate to put her back into
standing position if she cannot take her weight. At this stage there is a big
possibility that her back legs can slip when using hip clamps..
Gradually (over quite a few days .. depending on the severity of damage and the
cows attitude) Encourage her to take her weight, then encourage her to take some
steps. This can be done with the chain gently slackened. You may be able to very slowly following
her, driving behind her on the tractor. Be prepared to stop in case she becomes unsteady on her feet.
When she can take some steps she can have access to a fresh area of grass, and
drink from a bucket of water.
Keep on with the
physiotherapy until you are satisfied she can walk well. It may take weeks.
she is resting it is important to make sure her limbs are correctly positioned.
She is heavy..
We've all felt pins and needles in our limbs!!!
Imagine the weight of her body on badly positioned limbs, and for many hours.
Make sure she has plenty to eat. The digestion of food will help keep her body
warm. If the weather is bad, and she is without shelter then a cow cover, or
even some hay bales near her will prevent some of the chill from cold weather