Introduction: Pulling a Calf
In the cattle industry, usually, calving season is the most stressful time for a rancher. Each day is different during the calving season. We never know how many we will have in one day or if they will have trouble, so the most important thing is to always be prepared during this time. This guide includes the things we need, the planning that should be done and the steps to safely assist a cow in trouble.
Before we start trying to help the cow or heifer that is in trouble we need to make sure that she will not be able to have the calf by herself. It is very hard on the animal if a calf is pulled that she could have birthed unassisted; it is always a waste of time for the handler as well. An appropriate amount of time to wait before pulling a calf is around one hour to one and a half hours after the water has broken.
Prior to assisting in the birth, there has to be the correct materials and somewhere to put the calf and its momma, this includes having a calf chain to wrap around the calf’s feet, a puller, a rag to and to wipe our hands as it can get kind of messy, and a bottle and nipple to start the calf if needed. Veterinary sleeves can be used as well, which are just like rubber gloves only they go up to the shoulder.
Now that all the materials have been gathered, there should be a clean dry and warm place to put the pair. Usually, it is best to put them straight into the head catch. Most calving barns have head catches in one stall. This is where we will catch the cow’s head to help her give birth. After bedding down the pen if it is not already we can bring her in the barn. One thing to make sure of is to always use slow movements and not to put a lot of stress on her as it can make things harder for both the handler and the cow.
Once she is in the barn and her head is caught the best thing is to have a gate or panel leaned against both sides so she can’t swing her behind side to side. We also want to stand slightly to the left or right to prevent from being kicked.
The first thing we want to do is to check the position of the calf. If the calf is backward, pulling it is much harder than if it was not breached. A way to check to see if the calf is breeched without feeling is if the hooves are showing and we can see the bottom of the hooves facing down. If the pads of the hooves are facing up then that means either the calf is upside down, which is rare, or the calf is breeched. The next step is to secure the feet in the chain mentioned earlier. When doing this remember to never wrap the chain around we own wrists as they can get caught if the cow gets out of the catch somehow. Then we can attach the chain that is around both feet to the pulled. Most standard calf pullers have a heavy handle and crank. Make sure to crank slowly to not strain the cow badly. After the calf’s head can be seen the things thing to do is reach up and remove the amniotic sack from the head of the calf so that is can breathe. When the calf is out the first thing to do is to get the chains off of it and make sure it can breathe. If the calf is alright then immediately let the cow out, the sooner she is able to her take care of her calf the better it is for the pair.