In California, beef cows have both a fall and spring calving season. This means more dystocia experience for me! Today, an Angus cow presented for difficulty calving. This was her second calving experience. Unfortunately, based on the foul smell we experienced, in addition to our palpation findings when we began to examine her, it was quickly quite clear that the calf was already dead.
We continued to examine her and attempt to see whether we could easily pull out the calf. Based on the calf’s presentation, posture, and positioning in the birth canal, we were unable to successfully pull the calf with chains. We gave the mother an epidural to control pain and then spent the next five hours removing the calf from her uterus. We wanted to avoid performing a Cesarean section surgery because her uterus seemed very fragile and friable and we believed that a C-section surgery would put her life in danger.
Fortunately, upon removal of the calf, the cow walked out of the chute and we were able to give oxytocin to prevent a vaginal or cervical prolapse, as well as giving an anti-inflammatory to control inflammation and pain and an antibiotic to prevent infection.
Of course, every time a patient with dystocia presents, our goal is to deliver a healthy calf and keep the mother pain-free and healthy as well. Sadly, not every experience turns out like we want. I feel fortunate to have the ability to help to treat cows and calves in situations that would otherwise threaten their health. Every time I experience a dystocia situation, I learn just how strong (physically, emotionally, and intellectually) veterinarians truly are, and I feel so honored to be a future part of this profession!