Cattle obstetrics

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Cattle obstetrics is human intervention in the process of giving birth to a calf . This process is a wide-ranging area and includes, among other things, the control of the position of the calf or the use of mechanical and / or medical aids for birth. A complication-free birth process, in which obstetrics is not even necessary, is the healthiest for the mother and the calf.

The intervention is only really necessary under very limited conditions. An helper during childbirth must be aware that he has to adhere to mandatory rules. In addition, specialist knowledge is required with which he can correctly assess the situation. The goal is to maintain a healthy calf and a vital dam.

Preparatory actions

Birth coat for the cattle birth

Depending on the mother, one to six hours can pass between the bursting of the amniotic sac and the passage of the calf's head without obstetrics being required. If the calf's head has passed the shame, the birth should be over after about 10 minutes. It intervenes too early, is often caused only by difficult births .

The following points should be prepared for a successful birth:

  • enough warm water to cleanse the pubic area
  • Cleanliness and hygiene in the workplace
  • Birth coat and clean clothes
  • Fingernails trimmed short to prevent injuries
  • Take off jewelry
  • Have pulling aids (e.g. obstetricians) close at hand
  • Clean and stress-free calving area

Even if obstetrics should ultimately not be necessary, it makes sense to prepare everything.

Indicators of the need for obstetrics in cattle

Drawing of a cattle birth

Obstetrics should only be provided in special exceptions:

  • If symptoms of colic set in instead of labor (possibly twisted uterus ).
  • If the rupture of the bladder was more than two hours ago in the cow and more than four hours ago in the heifer and no muzzle or feet can be seen.
  • When only one limb is visible.
  • If only the muzzle can be seen.
  • If only the tail can be seen.
  • Position: If the calf is born with its front legs and head first, the birth usually proceeds naturally and without complications. If the hind legs come out first, obstetrics must be performed more often.
  • Position / Posture: Birth can only take place in the upper position, not in the lower or sideways position. The illustration on the right shows the ideal case, i.e. the upper position of the calf. Deviating from this posture / position can lead to complications and obstetrics may have to be provided.

If the birth process takes too long, surgery must be taken to save the life of the calf and the mother. If the calf has already died in the womb, operative / surgical measures must be taken to keep the cow alive.

Measures for obstetrics

Medicinal measures

Such measures directly influence the onset and course of labor. In addition, these aids can be used to reduce pain, to stabilize the circulation and metabolism and to combat infections in the mother animal and the fruit. Due to the drug dispensing law, you are obliged to consult a veterinarian in such cases.

Example: labor

Drug stimulation of labor supports weak or disordered labor. It is only indicated if the following requirements are met:

  • The uterus cervix must be open
  • The position of the uterus must not be changed
  • The calf must already be in the birth position (see posture / position)
  • The calf must not be too big

Mechanical measures

Pulling aid

Pulling aid for the calf's head

Pulling aid is understood to mean mechanical interventions in the birth process. The risks of mechanical interventions are only minimal when the animal is lying down. You may only pull during labor. During the pause in labor, there must be a break in every case. More than two people may never pull on the legs of a calf, as the birth canal of the mother animal cannot withstand a strong pull and this can cause internal injuries to the mother animal. At the beginning of the procedure, pulling should be carried out in an extension of the back line of the mother. Once the calf's rib cage has passed the cow's pubic cage, the pull must be angled in the direction of the mother's hind limbs.

Eye hooks

Blunt eye hooks

This means two metal hooks that are connected to one another on a very thin cord. They are connected in pairs with a rope, with the tips to each other. Both pointed and blunt eye hooks are available. The eye hooks are attached to the two inner (medial) corners of the eyes of the calf while still in the uterus of the cow, in order to bring the twisted head of the animal into the birth position. It must be ensured that the hooks are firmly anchored in the corner of the eye so that they do not slip off and injure the calf or the mother.

Birth chain and cords

Birth chain and rope

The chains or ropes are attached over the fetlock joints (on the cannon bone) of the calf in order to provide active obstetrics. The ropes and chains should be tight but not pinch. They are used to guide the calf's limbs or to bring them into the correct position. There are also special head ropes that are used to guide the calf's head. These are designed in such a way that they cannot contract.


Obstetrician for cattle birth in a very simple design, modern devices have large brackets to support the cow, as well as an improved pull rod

An obstetrician is a metal bar that uses a ratchet to build up tensile forces . A rope is attached over the fetlock joints (on the cannon bone) of the calf. Then the cords are tied to the obstetrician's handle. The front part of the obstetrician is attached below the pubic exit of the mother animal. Depending on the breed of animal, you can choose between different sized hangers. With the help of the ratchet attached to the handle, the calf can be pulled out of the womb. It should be noted that one only works with the contractions to support the thrust of the uterus. With comfortable devices, the operator has the option of limiting the pulling force using a switching mechanism.


In principle, the person providing the obstetrics should be aware of their knowledge. In advance, the person concerned should talk to the treating veterinarian in order to make the right decisions in an emergency. Because only the right decision leads to successful obstetrics. Successful means: a fresh calf and a vital mother animal that is pregnant again after an initial occupation.

Ban in the Netherlands

The use of an obstetrician is prohibited in the Netherlands. At the end of 2013, the Dutch State Secretary Sharon Dijksma had it checked to what extent the deployment could be permitted in individual cases. The argument for this is that the farmer is there faster than a veterinarian.


Individual evidence

  1. on the Dutch ban on obstetricians in the Netherlands
  2. Elite magazine on the prohibition of obstetrics in the Netherlands

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