Dystocia because of heavy calves can lead to injuries for the cow and suppressed fertility for the next parity. The solution currently used, the elective caesarean section (ECS), is associated with risks for the newborn, at least in humans.
In some beef cattle breeds, like Belgian blue, dystocia is a constant problem. To avoid injuries to the cow or even the loss of the cow and / or calf caesarean section is a routine veterinary obstetrical procedure employed to alleviate dystocia in cattle. For humans, however, it is known that a caesarean section, especially before labor, has negative consequences for the newborn. In the study presented here, these consequences were analyzed on newborn calves delivered per vaginam or per elective caesarean section.
The results show, that elective caesarean section (ECS) delivery affects the expression of key genes involved in the efficiency of the pulmonary liquid to air transition at birth, and may lead to an increased inflammatory response in jejunal tissue, which could compromise colostral immunoglobulin absorption. These findings are important to our understanding of the viability and management of neonatal calves born through ECS (Surlis, C. et al 2017).
Advantages of the ECS are the predictable due date and thus a better possibility of monitoring, fewer complications, the protection of the cow from injuries and the calf from lack of oxygen in the case of dystocia

This Research Innovation has an Impact on:

  • Socio-economic resilience: The costs of a ECS are higher than for a smooth natural birth because of the need for a vet, but what about having dystocia instead?
  • Animal health and welfare: veterinary costs because of ECS are higher (if natural birth would have been possible); consumer orientation in animal welfare favours to breed animals which are able to give birth to their offspring naturally; calves born via caesarean section might have problems with immune system and lung function
  • Production efficiency and meat quality: labour time per animal is higher with the use of ECS compared to a smooth natural birth, but what about a dystocia?