The costliest part of calving season is not getting a calf at all. Calf mortality is one of the biggest expenses in agriculture.
Minimising the cost of this is important, and it helps to know just what you’re up against. Here are the 5 most common calving deaths that occured last spring according to Teagasc:
1 – Calves not presented correctly – difficult calvings
Whether the calf comes out facing forwards or backwards, how the calf presents itself during calving can cause a lot of trouble.
Farmers are sometimes left confused as to which way the calf is facing. Additionally, some do not know how to help when a calf has gotten into a spot of bother.
Difficult presentations include: posterior hip flexions; breech presentations; anterior carpal and shoulder flexions; head folded down between legs. This is not an exhaustive list.
2 – Birth defects – calves with a blocked bowel or ‘waterbelly’
Not all birth defects in calves are fatal, but some are very near it.
Blocked bowel: This defect causes a blockage in the digestive system meaning the calf will not be able to pass any waste. The calf will get very sick very quickly and die if nothing is done. Euthanasia is recommended here because often there is more than one blockage.
Cleft nostril/palate: This can cause difficulty for the calf in feeding
Schistosoma reflux: This causes a deformity of the entire body
3 – Hemorrhage or anemia – bleeding before/during calving
Anaemia is a disease spread by ticks that usually affects calves aged 8-12 weeks old. However, if a gestating female gets anaemia it can cause abortion. To prevent this from happening you can kill the tick population with an insecticide.
If a cow has a vaginal prolapse, if you don’t intervene, the calf will die because the cow can’t give birth on her own.
These are likely to reoccur each year to taking her out of the breeding herd is recommended.
In a uterine prolapse, the trauma can lead to the cow bleeding to death. Additionally, the cow won’t be able to mother up the calf so that can lead to the calf being weaker.
4 – Placenta separating prematurely
Premature placental separation (PPS) isn’t a well documented condition in cattle.
The premature separation is thought to lead to anoxia and foetal death. The condition is associated with abnormal position of the foetus, although it is unclear whether this is a cause or a consequence.
5 – A lack of oxygen (anoxia) during prolonged, unobserved calvings
When you’re not around to help your cow deliver her calf, it can lead to prolonged births and stillborn calves.
This is why the Moocall Calving sensor is so important – it gives you time to save your cow and calf when time is the most important thing you have.
Anoxia is especially prevalent in backwards presentations like breech births, because the head is the last thing to come out, and the navel can be wedged and flattened leaving the calf without an air supply.
Even if it doesn’t lead to stillbirth, it can make them slow to stand and nurse. It can also make them more susceptible to calfhood diseases including pneumonia, scours and navel infection.
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