The production of one healthy calf per cow per year is the base for the income of suckler cow husbandry. Therefore, it is obvious that dystocia and other problems around pregnancy and birth have a great impact.
The prevention of problems around birth starts long before. Dystocia has a negative effect on cow and calf, so especially for the insemination of heifers, bulls with proven calving ease should be chosen (see ‘How to choose a bull for the herd?’). There are also decisive differences in the genetics of replacement animals (see ‘replacement strategy’).
Beside the genetics also the feeding of the cow plays an important role. Over conditioned animals have fatty birth canals and can produce heavy calves, which again can lead to dystocia. Thus, check BCS regularly! (see ‘Application of body condition score’).
For the birth itself it is useful to bundle the calving period of the whole herd to simplify the monitoring of the calving. Meanwhile, there are various tools to alert the farmer shortly before birth (see `prediction of birth’). However, do not neglect a trained eye that checks the udder and the tendons in order to determine the onset of birth.
During birth you should only intervene if necessary (see ‘Oversized calves’). Knowing the normal processes during birth helps to judge progress. Calving can be decomposed into three phases: cervix dilation and beginning of contractions (lasts 4 hours), expulsion of the calf (lasts 3 hours) and lastly expulsion of placenta. The main causes of calving problems are: narrow pelvis, small vaginas (see ‘Pelvimetry’); incorrect position of calves in the womb and large calves. In addition, the birth of a heifer can take much longer than in multi-parity cow!

A well-considered procedure from breed selection to the care for the newborn help to avoid many difficulties around pregnancy and birth; healthy calves and long-living, fertile cows are the reward.


Silva, R. O parto: Revista Limousine (pág.86-87):

This Research Innovation has an Impact on:

  • Socio-economic resilience: A decrease in calving difficulties decreases costs for veterinarian and treatment and leads to increased longevity of the cows.
  • Animal health and welfare: The rewards are healthier calves, longevity of the cows and increased herd fertility.
  • Product efficiency and meat quality: Early colostrum intake not only gives a better start in life, but is the basis for healthy and therefore efficient life up to the fattening stage.