Disproportional dam size and increased calf birth weight resulting in dystocia and perinatal mortality is a major animal health and welfare problem as well as an economic issue in beef and dairy cattle production in different parts of the world. 

Especially in double muscled cattle like the Belgian Blue caesarean section is a standard procedure to overcome this problem. However, this is bound to higher veterinary costs and leads to a problem with consumer acceptance of these breeds.

Pelvimetry – the measurement of the internal pelvic dimension –  is a simple method to force the selection for natural calving

           Picture 1: Rice Pelvimeter          Picture 2: Use of the Pelvimeter                                               Picture 3: Pelvic dimension criteria in cattle 


Breeders who wish to select for natural calving can use the internal pelvic area to predict dystocia and consequently culling heifers with small pelvises. The internal pelvimetry measurement can be done by the veterinarian. 

Relatively small increases in pelvic height and area are necessary to increase the probability of natural calving. An increase of only 2 cm in pelvic height and 50 cm² in area will almost double the probability of mature cows calving per vaginam in Belgian Blue. Furthermore, there is enough variation and heritability in pelvic dimension, that the development of a breeding value is possible. Thus, it would be possible to use pelvimetry not only for the selection of heifers, but to set up a whole breeding program on the selection for natural calving. In 2010 a model calculation assumed that it would be possible to have 50% natural calving in Belgian Blue in 2020 by sire selection for pelvis height.

           Literature: Jan ten Napel (2010): Pelvimetrie voor natuurlijke geboorten Meetprogramma dikbilrassen biedt veel perspectief  (Link)

Selection for natural calving has an impact on animal health and welfare due to less caesarean section, it will increase consumer acceptance of double muscled breeds and reduce veterinary costs. Herds with less caesarean section have a higher fertility and require less labor time and less replacement animals.

           Literature: Iris Kolkman (2007) Belangrijke bekkenmaten. Grote variatie bekkenmaten Belgisch witblauw maakt selectie op natuurlijk kalven mogelijk (Link)

IFA (Ireland) has conducted a DEMONSTRATION for farmers on this theme. To read the feedback - click here

Impact of the innovation also on

  1. Production efficiency and meat quality:
    With adopting pelvimetry to decrease the need for caesarean section the costs for veterinarian will be lower and working time is going to decrease.
  2. Environmental sustainability:
    Fertility of the herd is going to increase with increasing number of natural calving. Thus, less (replacement) animals are needed.