Topic-icon Pre calving behaviour in heifers

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29 Sep 2018 11:20 #542459 by Stikkibeek

I have a heifer due tomorrow, and her pre calving behaviour has me a little puzzled. She was noted to be tail lifting occaisionally during yesterday, wandering, and sitting in different places. More pronounced and more frequent behaviour was noted around 6.30 last evening. We moved her to the loose box ( a place she is familiar with) and left her paddock mate outside. Checks through the night showed nothing to indicate she was moving from stage 1 to stage 2, ie, no contractions. She was sitting down on and off and each time she was sitting, there were little piles of brownish mucous left behind. At 3.30 this AM, I rang the on call vet for a chat, and we decided to leave her undisturbed and check in the morning again. No sign of labour this morning. The vet called me for a progress report, and at that stage the heifer was happily grazing in the sun.
No sign of water breaking, no streamers, no contractions, no calf parts present, just another little puddle of mucous where she had sat down an hour ago.
The vet is on stand-by, but when do you determine the length of stage 1 is getting too long? In this study they say from 4-12 hours from tail lifting (see below)

Abstract
The individual monitoring of dairy cows around the time of calving is important to identify calving difficulties or health problems as early as possible. This study aims to identify whether there are differences in the behaviour before calving, between heifers and cows, and between those that are assisted at calving and those that are not. Behavioural recordings of Holstein–Friesian cows and heifers were made before and during calving. Video recordings from 12 cows and 12 heifers were selected so that half of each group were observed to have calved without assistance and the other half were identified as having been assisted at calving. To compare the 12 h prior to the calf being expelled with a 12-h control period during late pregnancy, continuous focal observations were made from the video recordings to quantify frequencies and durations of behaviours during 2-h periods. An increased duration of tail raising was observed before calving and this was seen earlier in heifers, from 4 h before calving, compared with only 2 h before calving in cows. Lying frequency increased as calving approached from 6 h before calving in unassisted animals, but only during the final 2 h before calving in assisted animals. These results show important differences between heifers and cows in their pre-calving behaviour which must be taken into account when predicting the time of calving from behaviour. However, for those animals that subsequently required assistance, no behavioural early-warning signs of a difficult calving were identified.


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Last Edit: 29 Sep 2018 11:21 by Stikkibeek.

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29 Sep 2018 11:36 #542460 by Ruth

I have seen signs of the start of labour in cows who have then just sat down and done nothing and it has always meant there's a problem. I always check behind them for fluids if there's been any sign of labour. If there is birth fluid (and brown mucous sounds more like birth fluids than the clear mucous you might get pre-labour) then there's at least one burst bag, labour has begun and there's a calf that can't get out. You're probably too late by now, unless you're really lucky.

In the various cases I've seen, the calf has been malpresented and unable to organise itself in the birth canal appropriately to stimulate contractions in the cow. One calf was breech (no legs up), a couple have been upside-down, with their spines along the belly of the cow, so their feet were pointing too far up into the cow's pelvis. One just had his foot caught in the top side of the cow's pelvis and so every time she tried to push, it hurt and so she sat down and waited. That was a simple one to fix but time would have killed the calf.

Someone needs to get their arm in there to find out what's going on.

Last Edit: 29 Sep 2018 11:37 by Ruth.

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29 Sep 2018 11:47 #542461 by LongRidge

Ditto to Ruth's reply.
The only cow that I have had with a reverse presentation was doing what yours is doing for 18 hours before I decided to do an internal at 8 pm. I then found the tail, so called the vet to turn it around and get it out. Dead unfortunately, but I will always wonder if I had done an internal at midday rather than 8 pm she might have had a live calf :-(.

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29 Sep 2018 19:39 #542473 by Stikkibeek

Well I have a live heifer calf on the ground but far from out of the woods. Vet came this afternoon for a "look" and determined the calf was engaged, both front feet and nose in correct place, but even when investigating, the cow did absolutely no pushing, so whatever hormones were supposed to be released, there were either insufficient, or non existent. Water had not broken and didn't until the vet went in with chains. Vet tubed the calf with colostrum and she is in the stable in a hay bivouac with rug. We blow dried the calf and it is warm underneath. The vet thinks we have a calcium problem in the pasture so we talked about the issue of prevention in light of the weak hyperthermic calf we ended up losing last year. I'll need to get a bit more colostrum into it shortly

Now we need some really good news. It's been a truly horrible week


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29 Sep 2018 21:39 #542474 by Ruth

You presumably use lime on the pastures though?
Do you give the cattle Magnesium before calving?

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30 Sep 2018 00:00 #542476 by Stikkibeek

My dear little heifer calf crossed the rainbow bridge at 11 pm


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30 Sep 2018 10:04 #542477 by Sue

Sorry hear of your loss SB, I can so commiserate with you-we have had the calving year from hell too!

Our vet has changed his thoughts-due to more information coming to light-that heifers should not be left as long as was thought practical-before intervention to find out what is going on.

In the case of your little heifer perhaps it was a miracle she was still alive, maybe because the placenta had stayed attached longer?

Yes I have heard of calcium blood levels being low can make labour appear weak.The difficulty is if you feed extra calcium before birth it can exacerbate Milk fever problems?

We lost the heifer calf from a 2 year old a couple of weeks ago. The heifer started labour about lunchtime with tail out and sitting down in various places. By 2pm she was actively in labour and pushing and at 3pm I could see front hooves. By 4pm I called the vet- paranoid I know, as I had already lost two calves!
He arrived at 5pm, attached chains and a head noose-it was an easy pull and the calf was breathing. Within 5 minutes it had died and no amount of CPR and heart stimulation helped.
Just another of those 'bugger' moments!


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30 Sep 2018 11:33 #542479 by Ruth

Sue wrote: ...Yes I have heard of calcium blood levels being low can make labour appear weak.The difficulty is if you feed extra calcium before birth it can exacerbate Milk fever problems?...

That was why I asked about Mg: it's vital in the mobilisation of Ca in the body of the cow. It's usually Mg that is deficient at this time of year. It was slow labours in my cows that prompted me to start dishing it out a few years ago.

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30 Sep 2018 12:19 #542481 by Stikkibeek

How much do you feed daily and is it too late to give the other cow some protection . She is due in 12 days, but has been known to calve a week earlier (on both occasions.)
What really fooled me was the total lack of labour on the part of the heifer. Also the vet was completely stumped about that too. Only time the cow pushed was when the vet went in to check all ok after delivery. She rang this morning and was disappointed to hear we'd lost it. It had quite a good response to the tubed colostrum.
I have had mum in the bale this morning and eased out her udder.
A scary prospect losing 50% of my calves! :sick:


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30 Sep 2018 13:15 #542482 by Ruth

MgO is about 48% Mg (the bag is not next to me but it's close to 50%) so you give 40g or so of the MgO to provide 20g/day of Mg. I mix it with a bit of water first to make a thickish paste, then stir/shake that in a container with Molasses and feed it to each cow. No it's never too late to do some good. Those of mine who are already hooked on molasses eat more than their share than the slower, younger cows and heifers who have not yet had as many years of molasses.

Dull weather means the grass doesn't take up enough Mg (if there's enough of it in the soil) and they can never eat enough Ca to supply their needs at calving so somewhere, something gives. Supply sufficient Mg and they can do what they need to about the Ca from within their own bodies, which is how it's supposed to work.

I used to sprinkle MgO on the sheep nuts for the ewes, since that's what they were keen on eating. Put it on/in whatever your cows already like; but the molasses is a really easy way to dish it out if you have appropriate containers.


www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/cow-health/milk-fever/

Last Edit: 30 Sep 2018 13:19 by Ruth.

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30 Sep 2018 17:04 #542486 by LongRidge

I used to sprinkle it on the hay or balage, but I suspect that most fell off while they were eating. If your cows are used to meal or pellets, then supplying meal with MgO added might work. A slight overdose of Mg is not particularly poisonous.

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30 Sep 2018 19:23 #542487 by Ruth

It's not poisonous at all in terms of danger. It makes them loosely shitty if they have a bit too much and way too much, which would be way more than you'd be giving them, can be sedating, but I doubt it's harmfully so.

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01 Oct 2018 10:15 #542503 by Sue

Sticks to baleage better than hay!
We used to spread it along the fresh break of wet grass, just under the tape so they had to eat it, not walk in it!


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01 Oct 2018 11:08 #542509 by Stikkibeek

Went and picked up 2 feeder calves yesterday afternoon, both nice Hereford crosses. The heifer came roaring up to the stable when we arrived back and then buzzed off down to the yards. We caught her and after a bit of persuasion she remembered she'd been taught to lead and we got her back to the stable to introduce her to her new babies. I figured if she hated the sight of them, then I still had the option to milk her and feed them, supplementing if necessary.
She wasn't happy, lashed out and for a while the calves were gun shy. I put the hopples on her and after a wee fight with them, she settled and one at least got a feed. The other I fed from the feeder with milk I had taken off her that morning.

This morning she was bellowing outside the stable and they were answering her. Put on the hopples, and after a short tussle she gave in, let both calves suck and stood there chewing her cud and eating a carrot bribe OH was posting in her gob. She is back at the stable door bellowing for them, so I'm hopeful. I'm hoping she will enjoy the sensation of sucking, as she didn't get that with her own calf.
Time's going to tell on this one.


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09 Oct 2018 23:59 #542717 by Stikkibeek

Have had some issues with scouring in the two feeder calves. I expect it's the result of transport, new surroundings, different milk and routine change. Anyhow they seem to be improving now although they really, really, stink which is a bit unusual. The vendor says he was giving them Iodine, ACV and yoghurt. Anybody ever heard of this or know the ratio to milk?
I was giving the worst one electrolytes, scour ban and milk but not all at the same time. The heifer seems to like them, has from time to time been seen licking them, but will not let them feed straight off without leg restraints. It's like she's ticklish. She's good with the milking machine though.

Now, the last cow to calve. I did get 8 days of magnesium into her. I can see why there is a risk of causing milk fever, her udder is an unbelievable size wise and it all happened in 2 days. Seen with tail up 5pm today, so into the stable and she gave birth at 10pm this evening 3 days early. Calf is very lively, has had a feed and trying to frolic, but dammit! A bull. I so wanted a heifer out of her. He will be A2A2 so, some value I expect. I'm grateful he looks ok.
How long should I continue the MgO after calving?


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10 Oct 2018 07:47 #542718 by Ruth

I carry on for as long as I can be bothered, since at this time of year the grass is starting to grow in the sunshine, so the problem reduces. We keep the milking cow going for about three or four weeks, since I keep doing her some when I'm doing it for the still yet to calve cows.

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10 Oct 2018 11:45 #542723 by Sue

We carry on with the magnesium while we are still feeding out baleage/hay, so until the grass gets away. I read somewhere you should keep it up for months-but I don't know anyone who does!
Good luck with the clip-ons. Bad luck they have been scouring-once they are strong and pushy they should cope!

Re Hobbles SB. I think they were the longer Shoof model-if there were two lengths? We left them on our wayward cow last year for at least a week, may have been 10 days, until she was prepared to feed her calf in the paddock without us having to go and catch her and tie her up. I must say I was very hesitant putting them on, with my head within kicking distance-but luckily she accepted them calmly! The mud didn't help as it blocked up the velcro prickles-but she never got them off!

Just put on-nice and clean-



I cringe when I see how wet and horrid it was last calving season! These are Shoof hobbles


The moment I noticed she would let her calf feed in the paddock-It was 12 days old.


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