Tera Barnhardt, DVM: Timing is Everything

Thanks to Dr. Tera Barnhardt for sending in another (timely) guest blog. In today’s post, Tera shares some helpful tips for calving season.

Read more about Tera here.

Timing Is Everything

It’s that time of year! Happy calving season to you and yours. Whether you are knee deep in babies already or the mommas are just bagging up at your place, I thought it’d be a good time to post on calving season. The event that sparked this post came a couple weeks ago when I had a producer haul a cow into the clinic “too early”. Most veterinarians would argue that there is no such thing! Most of the time, if you call a vet sooner rather than later, you’ll save more calves–everyone’s goal!

Since time is of the essence, here’s some quick calving season tips for your operation:

1. Stage 1 labor is the prep stage. Cows are usually restless, heifers are usually confused, and this stage can take a lot of time! Be patient and plan on 2-6 hours of waiting.

2. Stage 2 labor begins when the water sac is expelled. Start a timer when you see the sac. If a cow hasn’t delivered in 30 minutes and a heifer in 60 – get her in and check things out.

3. Be very clean when doing a vaginal exam and always use an OB glove with lots of lube! If you reach in and have no idea what you’re feeling, call the vet!

4. Don’t think of cesareans as your last option! If the calf is alive at the beginning of surgery, generally we have good odds of sending home a live calf post-surgery. Rebreeding rates can be as low as 50% on cows that have a cesarean, but I try to advise clients to cull problem cows.

5. Cows are forgiving. Retained placentas are not an emergency, but should be dealt with to improve fertility. Do not forcefully remove placentas!!!

6. Calves need to be up and nursing in 4 hours. They must have colostrum in the first 12 hours for best absorption!

And now I’m just going to post a couple products that I love to use when calving season rolls around. I am by no means endorsing these products for compensation, I just think they are awesome!

Calving Straps
I grew up with OB chains and they are easy to clean and disinfect. I also feel like a fumbling idiot when they get slick and I’m trying to figure them out in front of a client. Calving straps were introduced to me by my boss and I love them! Keep them clean and they’ll last forever!

OB Sleeves
They make all kinds of OB Sleeves. Find the ones you like! It may not matter if you don’t use a lot of them, but I’ve found that I have a preference now that I’ve gone through a couple 1000 count bags of sleeves I don’t like! They make petite sleeves for hands that are smaller. My new favorite sleeve has an elastic cuff at the shoulder that keeps the sleeve up and on your arm. They even make fingerless sleeves if you’re looking for an option that allows you to wear nitrile gloves underneath.

Happy Calving!

P.S. — We look forward to seeing your best #cutecalf pictures later this spring! May the calving gods forever be in your favor — may the lack of sleep be worth it 🙂