Calving difficulty not only is the prime cause of baby calf mortality, it can also markedly reduce a cow's reproductive performance during the next breeding season, according to Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus livestock specialist.

Selk cited a 1973 study by animal scientists J.S. Brinks, J. E. Olson and E.J. Carroll that documented cattle suffering from calving difficulty had pregnancy rates decreased by 14%, while those that did become pregnant calved 13 days later than projected as their next calving.

"Watchful producers willing and able to lend a hand often make all the difference," he says. "Results from a 1984 Montana study showed that heifers receiving assistance in early stage two of parturition returned to heat earlier in the post-calving period and had higher pregnancy rates than heifers receiving traditionally accepted obstetric assistance."

In this study, heifers were either assisted about one hour after the fetal membranes appeared or were assisted only if calving was not completed within two hours of the appearance of the water bag.

"Heifers that were allowed to endure a prolonged labor had a 17% lower rate of cycling at the start of the next breeding season," Selk says. "In addition, the rebreeding percentage was 20% lower than their counterparts that were given assistance in the first hour of labor."

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