Calving a backwards calf

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Jeanne - Simme Valley

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Article in Cattlenetwork.com

Cow Calf: Assisting The Posterior Presentation (Backwards Calf)

Any cow calf producer that has spent several years in the cattle business has had the experience of assisting a cow or heifer deliver a calf that was coming backwards. Understanding the physiology and anatomy of the calf and mother will improve the likelihood of a successful outcome. Study the diagram of the "posterior presentation" shown below.

(didn't put pic)

Note the relative positions of the tailhead of the baby calf and the umbilical cord that connects the calf to the mother's blood supply. As the calf's hips are pulled through the pelvic opening, the baby calf's tail will reach the outer areas of the mother's vaginal opening. Once a person can see the baby calf's tailhead, the umbilical vessels are being compressed against the rim of the mother's pelvic bone. The blood flow, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, between calf and mother is greatly impaired, if not completely clamped off. Research, many years ago, conducted in Europe illustrates how little time it takes to compromise the calf's survivability when the umbilical cord is clamped. These scientists studied the impact of clamping the umbilical cord for 0, 4, 6, or 8 minutes.

Table 1. Impact of clamping of umbilical vessels on calf survivability
Duration of Clamping Number of Calves Fate of Calves
0 minutes 5 calves All of the 5 calves lived
4 minutes 5 calves 4 lived; 1 died
6 minutes 3 calves 3 died
8 minutes 3 calves 3 died

Certainly, if a producer does not feel confident in their abilities to deliver the backward calf, call your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence. As producers examine heifers or cows at calving and find a situation where the calf is coming backward, they need to keep this European data in mind. If the calf's hips are not yet through the pelvic opening, they have a little time to locate help and have someone else to aid in the assistance process. Once the cow and the producer in concert have pushed and pulled the calf's hips through the pelvic opening and the tailhead is apparent, the calf needs to be completely delivered as quickly as possible. The remainder of the delivery should go with less resistance as the hips are usually the toughest part to get through the pelvic opening. The shoulders may provide some resistance. However, some calf rotation and traction being applied as the cow strains will usually produce significant progress. Remember, the completion of the delivery is to be accomplished in about 4 minutes or less. The calf's head and nostrils are in the uterine fluids and cannot breathe until completely delivered. The calf must get oxygen rapidly to offset the hypoxia that it is been subjected to during the delivery. After the calf is delivered, tickle it's nostrils with a straw to cause snorting and inhalation of air to get it started to breathing.
 
we have pulled alot of backwards calves.an havent lost any.so we must be doing something right while pulling them.
 
Had one last year we named Reets. That's steer spelled backwards. :mrgreen:
Thanks for the post , good info.
 
I'm curious how to deal with a true breech. Had one this year that the cow managed to have on her own but it's hind legs were still folded up under it when it came out. When I saw there was a problem all there was was a tail sticking out. Before I could do anything she had the calf that way, dead of course.
 
Was the calf extremely small Dun? I always assumed that a cow wouldn't be able to deliver a true breach. Learn something new every day...

I haven't been able to correct the positions in the 2 that I've had and have had to call the vet. One was taken by C-section, and the other the vet worked about 45 minutes and was finally able to get the legs. Both (actually all 3 as one time it was twins) were dead.
 
ChrisB":2h7elee1 said:
Was the calf extremely small Dun? I always assumed that a cow wouldn't be able to deliver a true breach. Learn something new every day...

I haven't been able to correct the positions in the 2 that I've had and have had to call the vet. One was taken by C-section, and the other the vet worked about 45 minutes and was finally able to get the legs. Both (actually all 3 as one time it was twins) were dead.

He weighed 78 pounds. I called the vet when I saw the problem and by the time he got here, 6 miles, she'ld already had it. Said that was only the thirrd cow he had ever seen have a breech calf by herself. But he's only been a vet for 30 years or so and probably doesn;t have much experience.
I wonder how many time a new born calf is found dead that may have been breech but it just wasn't observed. (But I wonder about a lot of things)
 
i pulled a breech a few years ago, i was at work and when i got home the cow had been straining all day it was a mother scratcher too push back enough too get the hind legs out from under it and out for the pull. pushing the butt foward, and cupping my hand over each hoof . but i did it on the ground in a cold march rain... too make matters worse.
 
Of all the wacky malpresentations we have had in the past, I can only remember one true breech. It was a 130 lb steer out of a hereford cow we had bought. It took about 2 hours and the neighbour's help to get him, but we got him alive. Takes long arms, a lot of stamina and hard work to push them up while bringing the leg back.
 
randiliana":vkueh5yo said:
Of all the wacky malpresentations we have had in the past, I can only remember one true breech. It was a 130 lb steer out of a hereford cow we had bought. It took about 2 hours and the neighbour's help to get him, but we got him alive. Takes long arms, a lot of stamina and hard work to push them up while bringing the leg back.
well least you didnt have to casterate him, that saved some trouble ;-)
 
dun":3losn45l said:
I'm curious how to deal with a true breech. Had one this year that the cow managed to have on her own but it's hind legs were still folded up under it when it came out. When I saw there was a problem all there was was a tail sticking out. Before I could do anything she had the calf that way, dead of course.

We had one once, I couldnt figure out what the hell I was feeling, so I called the vet and he said it was a true breech. Basically he just pushed it around until he could get the hind legs pointing out, the calf coming backwards. It was DOA though, and he managed to tear the uterus and the bowel while repositioning the legs. Cow lived for about a month before we shot her. Got better, got worse, got better, got worse, you know the story.
 
alacattleman":35m3acdp said:
randiliana":35m3acdp said:
Of all the wacky malpresentations we have had in the past, I can only remember one true breech. It was a 130 lb steer out of a hereford cow we had bought. It took about 2 hours and the neighbour's help to get him, but we got him alive. Takes long arms, a lot of stamina and hard work to push them up while bringing the leg back.
well least you didnt have to casterate him, that saved some trouble ;-)


Actually, we did. After all that, he was alive. If he'd been facing the right direction, though, the cow would have had him by herself....
 
I have had twins that were fine. You can almost assure yourself that one of them will be backwards. Then I have found dead ones that I have no idea why. You can only assume.

Even if you live right there with the cows, you have to sleep some. You can not always be right on top of things like you'd like to be.

But you can help when you know what to do. That was a very good read Jeane and well expressed too.
 
It's no secret that I prefer smaller calves than most of the people on the board. I wonder how many of those small calves are born backwards and since I'm not there - I never know. Just a live calf waiting the next time (evening) I drive by. Although I have seen my share of breech/bad presentations where I had to pull, the percentage of those is miniscule.
 
Quite often the backwards calf is a big calf? That is why he is backwards, he couldn't get turned around in the uterous. Three things should be in the birth canal. Two hind legs and the tail!
A backwards calf is usually a fairly tough pull. If I'm going to pull him I use the pullers, never try it by hand. Once you start, bring him fast or he will try to start breathing. When you get him out use the puller to hoist him up so he can drain...or hang him over a wood fence! If he is slow to breathe stick a piece of straw up his nose.
On a true breech use one hand to push him forward. Use the other to reach down and pull up on the hock until you can cup your hand on rear foot and pull up over the edge of the pelvis. Repeat the process with other leg and then pull with the pullers.
I don't use chains anymore. Use the nylon strap.
 
Have had a few in the past. The weirdest one was a calf that was laying crosswise and on it's back. Cow never really went into labor. Were able to get the calf turned most of the way and then our vet showed up and he was able to get him turned the rest of the way and out. Calf was dead though.

Now something this vet taught us with a breech, is when you get the calf out hold it up so the head is down, that helps get the fluid out. Also instead of laying the calf on it's side, lay it on it's chest and belly with the hind legs going forward along it's body and the front legs out in front. I know this position doesn't last long once the cow starts licking the calf, but it does help.
One breech we had, we did hold her up so her head was down and did the straw in the nose. Husband went back to the house, but I just had a "feeling" to stick around. Calf quit breathing. Jumped in the pen started pressing on her chest, then flipped her on her other side and more fluid came out. Pressed a few more times and did the straw and she started breathing again.
 
Pulled my second breech of the year last night, both have survived. The cow that had trouble last night was a daughter of the first breech. Mother had a 90some lb calf, can't remember offhand. The one last night was 102lbs - it's been a strange year. I think the larger calves have more tendency to be breech if there's not enough room to get properly turned. Mother of the first wouldn't cooperate and I didn't have time to fool with her, ended up knocking her down with the 4 wheeler in a swamp and jerking the calf out before she got her footing - rodeo style.
 
randiliana":30ipfw8r said:
alacattleman":30ipfw8r said:
randiliana":30ipfw8r said:
Of all the wacky malpresentations we have had in the past, I can only remember one true breech. It was a 130 lb steer out of a hereford cow we had bought. It took about 2 hours and the neighbour's help to get him, but we got him alive. Takes long arms, a lot of stamina and hard work to push them up while bringing the leg back.
well least you didnt have to casterate him, that saved some trouble ;-)


Actually, we did. After all that, he was alive. If he'd been facing the right direction, though, the cow would have had him by herself....


Randi, I think alacattleman is having a little fun at your expense. Very unusual to have a steer of any size before he sees the daylight. ;-)
 

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