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5 Oct 2020

Difficult calvings

Difficult calvings can be defined as calving problems linked to spontaneous, long calvings or as assisted calvings. Difficult calvings increase the risk of retained placenta, uterine infections, mastitis and digestive and metabolic disorders.

The incidence of difficult calvings is important for reproduction, as it has been shown that calving difficulties can result in delays in the uterus returning to normal size, delayed start of cyclical activity and abnormal progesterone profiles after calving.

The extent of the negative effects rises however with the increasing degree of difficulty in the calving process.

Classifying the problem

Calving difficulties can be assumed to be a problem, if the incidence in individual herds is significantly higher than in the average herd.


Factors that directly or indirectly affect the calving process include the following: calving management, length of pregnancy, birth weight of calf, sex of calf, foetus death, pelvic size of cow, calcium and magnesium status, selenium status, stress in association with calving, foetal abnormalities, breed, calving age of heifers, height reached and weight at first calving, performance level, parity, motion, sickness, under and over feeding in the last trimester, genotype, herd size, season and region.

Points for action plan

The animals should be made ready for calving via an optimal dry cow / calving heifer / livestock management, and calve under optimal conditions (place, comfort, hygiene). Make sure you have a robust procedure for supervising the birth process and management of delivery complications, and avoid too early intervention in the birth process. Sickness monitoring and sickness treatment should be effective. Check that the animals are getting the intended feed ration and that they are happy with this ration.

The animals must not be exposed to stress, such as crowding or inexpedient changes in the group, and not subjected to difficult calving processes via breeding.

Focus on

  • Breeding (calving sire >110, in particular heifers)
  • Feeding and management of reared cows, calving heifers and dry cows
  • Calving conditions and supervision of calving