Veterinary clinics servicing cow-calf clients are busy all over with calving season in full swing. Many conversations with producers occur after bankers' hours over an untimely fetal extraction. Topics of conversation wander and vary while the veterinarian prepares a suitable patch of hide through which a calf will soon emerge. But knowing when to call the vet greatly enhances the chances of a live vigorous newborn. The difference between an unaided delivery and a dystocia is a fine line. Calving problems encompass a variety of issues from fetal monsters to having a leg back.

The most common dystocia seen results from a calf that is simply too big for the pelvis. This is usually the case with heifers. Producers may notice feet with minimal progression after an hour of active labor. When the pelvis is too narrow for the calf, the sides of the pelvis push the legs together and often the legs are crossed near the fetlocks or feet. A pelvis that is short, top to bottom, prevents the head from entering the birth canal normally. The forehead of the calf will contact the top of the pelvis preventing normal parturition. On occasion, the force from abdominal and uterine contractions will push the head of the calf down, or more commonly, to the side making it difficult to find. These calves need to be delivered by C-section, or cesarean.

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