Prepare a “calving kit” before spring calving season begins

By : Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

Before the hustle and bustle of the spring calving season, now is a good time to put together the supplies and equipment that will be needed to assist heifers and cows that need help at calving time. 
Before calving season starts, do a “walk-through” of pens, chutes, and calving stalls. Make sure that all are clean dry, strong, safe, and functioning correctly. This is a lot easier to do on a sunny afternoon than a dark night when you need them.
Protocol: Before calving season starts develop a plan of what to do, when to do it, who to call for help (along with phone numbers), and how to know when you need help. Make sure all family members or helpers are familiar with the plan. It may help to write it out and post copies in convenient places. Talk to your local veterinarian about your protocol and incorporate his/her suggestions. Below is an example of a “Calving Protocol” that could be laminated and hung in the barn or calving shed.  Note:  this is just an example.  You may wish to include other important steps in the protocol.  Encourage everyone that will be watching and helping cows and heifers this calving season to read Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-1006, “Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers”.
Supplies: The stockmen should always have in their medicine chest the following: disposable obstetrical sleeves, non- irritant antiseptic, lubricant, obstetrical chains (60 inch and/or two 30 inch chains), two obstetrical handles, mechanical calf pullers and injectable antibiotics. Also have a tincture of iodine solution that can be used to treat navels of newborns shortly after birth.  Many lubricants have been used and one of the best lubricants is probably the simplest: non detergent soap and warm water. Don’t forget the simple things like a good flashlight and extra batteries and some old towels or a roll of paper towels. 
It may be helpful for you to have all these things and other items you may want to include packed into a 5 gallon bucket to make up a “calving kit” so you can grab everything at once.  Place that bucket in a location that can be found and reached by everyone in the operation.  Locate a plastic tub large enough to immerse the body of a very cold-stressed calf in 100 degree water for an hour.  Remember to hold his head above water so he can breathe.
“Calving Protocol”
Who to call: Countryside Large Animal Clinic  405-123-1234
                                      Dr. Jones cell phone  405-321-4321
                                      Dad’s cell phone 405-999-0000
                                      Billy Ray’s cell phone 405-777-1111
Watch heifers 1 hour after water bag or baby calf feet appear
Watch cows 30 min after water bag or baby calf feet appear
Find calving kit on North wall of calving barn
Use plenty of lube or soap and water
Determine that cervix is dilated and calf is coming head and both front feet first.  Call for help if something is unusual.
Don’t pull until cervix is completely dilated
Apply ¼ turn as hips go through pelvic bone
Backwards calf must be delivered within 4 minutes after calf’s tail appears
Briskly tickle nostril of calf with stiff straw to start breathing
Clean chains and handles and replace calving kit
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