23 June 1995

Manage to cut calving stress

STRESS-FREE summer calving starts with sound dry cow management. Get that right and difficulties should be minimised.

The advice comes from David Black of the Caldew Veterinary Group, Dalston, Carlisle, Cum-bria. He warns that cows which are too fat at calving can suffer difficulties due to excessive fat in the birth canal, poor early lactation production due to reduced appetites and increased incidence of metabolic problems such as milk fever and "fatty liver syndrome".

"Milk fever and staggers can be reduced by attention to the calcium/magnesium ratios of dry cow supplements with a change to relatively higher calcium concentrates a few days before calving," he says. Extra minerals may also be needed to safeguard calf health and cow fertility. "Copper, selenium and iodine levels should be checked regularly by blood-sampling groups of cows and heifers."

When cows do have calving difficulties, check calf presentation is correct and, if it is, leave the cow to get on with it, says dairy vet Neil Howie of Wilson McWilliam and Partners, Nantwich, Cheshire.

"Many calves are lost when herdsmen are too impatient with the calving cow," he says. "Cows which are slow to calve may have milk fever and should be given a bottle of calcium.

"When assistance is required then be clean, wear gloves and use a proper lubricant, which will be more hygienic than soap and water," he says. Calving aids were useful but had to be used properly.

When it seems likely that a caesarian may be required, dont assist the cow until the vet has seen her, he says. "Caesarians have an increasingly good recovery rate, especially if the cow has not been mauled before the operation." &#42