Utilizing the C-section | TSLN.com

Utilizing the C-section

Dave Barz, DVM

For the Feb. 27, 2010 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

Winter continues to hold us in its powerful grip. Bull sales are postponed and chores take forever. With calving just around the corner, we wonder if we should even leave our farms and ranches. We can only hope the conditions improve before the heavy calving begins.

Many of you are ready to begin calving your heifers. With careful selection of your heifers to have adequate pelvic size and use of bulls with small birth weights we believe we minimize our calving problems. Recent data shows that about one in 250 heifers require a Cesarean-section (C-section) or about 0.4 percent. Another 7.5 percent of heifers require a “hard pull” to accomplish a delivery. Perhaps some of these hard pulls would benefit from surgical correction.

Several of my clients are opting to choose surgical delivery rather than severe traction. If the calf seems large and the heifer’s pelvic area is small compared to size of the calf, they prefer a C-section. Once the procedure is completed the heifer walks away and calf is usually ready to nurse by the time the suturing is done. When excessive traction is used the calf may even be dead by the time the delivery is complete. Many times the heifer is also injured and may be unable to walk for several days. Data shows calves delivered by C-section are larger at weaning and you also have more calves because of your higher born live percentage. The heifers also tend to breed back more readily and milk better.

Over the years veterinarians have tried to establish parameters for doing C-sections. After many years of measuring and calculating for me it now simply comes down to the position of the head. If both legs and head are locked into the pelvis, I would pull the calf. When the head is not in the pelvis yet, I place a cable head snare on the calf. If I can manipulate the head into the pelvis with manual traction (not using the puller), I would also pull this calf. When we put traction on the cable snare with the calf puller, we overstretch the neck and cause calves to be delivered dead. If the calf is already dead before delivery, I would pull on the head snare with the puller. Lubrication is very important during delivery. We prefer a disinfectant soap. Many of you may use “J-Lube” in deliveries. If you use this product in the vagina and uterus and then need to perform a C-section, the heifer’s life is at risk if any of this product leaks into the animal’s abdomen.

We also perform C-section on heifers and cows for problems other than large calves. Sometimes the vaginal canal will not seem to dilate. This may be the result of a uterine torsion. The uterus flips when the calf is smaller and does not flip back. As the calf grows in the cow the uterus explodes and is unable to rotate to its normal position. When you examine these animals vaginally, your hand will tend to follow the vagina in a corkscrew or twisting fashion. Sometimes these can be returned by rolling the cow and massaging the uterus extra-abdominally. Others utilize a de-torsion rod to spin the calf and uterus. For me the C-section is the fasted and simplest.

Fetal deformities and dead calves are also removed by C-section. These procedures require more extensive post operative care because secondary infections may occur. Some veterinarians prefer embryotomy (surgical dissection of the calf in the uterus). This is a time consuming process and requires good upper body strength.

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If the calf is alive and the pull appears difficult, I prefer the C-section. Many of my producers call when the heifer is on the way to the clinic and they don’t attempt to pull the calf. I prefer to do a standing left blank whenever possible. Most of my producers will have the animals clipped and prepped before I even arrive. Extra assistance is needed when the calf is pulled through the abdominal wall. Once the calf is delivered and the navel properly clamped, it is the assistant’s job to resuscitate the calf. I prefer the calf be hung to allow fluids to drain from the respiratory system. I feel several calves died as a result of inspiratory problems 15 to 20 minutes after surgery. If the calf has passed meconium (first manure) in the uterus before birth, it is much more critical to clean the air passages.

The Cesariean-section is a viable procedure to minimize cow and calf trauma during difficult births. Your results should be good if you make your decision early and receive a live calf from a standing cow. A visit with your veterinarian will set parameters for your herd to minimize losses. Best of luck on what will probably be a troublesome calving season.

Winter continues to hold us in its powerful grip. Bull sales are postponed and chores take forever. With calving just around the corner, we wonder if we should even leave our farms and ranches. We can only hope the conditions improve before the heavy calving begins.

Many of you are ready to begin calving your heifers. With careful selection of your heifers to have adequate pelvic size and use of bulls with small birth weights we believe we minimize our calving problems. Recent data shows that about one in 250 heifers require a Cesarean-section (C-section) or about 0.4 percent. Another 7.5 percent of heifers require a “hard pull” to accomplish a delivery. Perhaps some of these hard pulls would benefit from surgical correction.

Several of my clients are opting to choose surgical delivery rather than severe traction. If the calf seems large and the heifer’s pelvic area is small compared to size of the calf, they prefer a C-section. Once the procedure is completed the heifer walks away and calf is usually ready to nurse by the time the suturing is done. When excessive traction is used the calf may even be dead by the time the delivery is complete. Many times the heifer is also injured and may be unable to walk for several days. Data shows calves delivered by C-section are larger at weaning and you also have more calves because of your higher born live percentage. The heifers also tend to breed back more readily and milk better.

Over the years veterinarians have tried to establish parameters for doing C-sections. After many years of measuring and calculating for me it now simply comes down to the position of the head. If both legs and head are locked into the pelvis, I would pull the calf. When the head is not in the pelvis yet, I place a cable head snare on the calf. If I can manipulate the head into the pelvis with manual traction (not using the puller), I would also pull this calf. When we put traction on the cable snare with the calf puller, we overstretch the neck and cause calves to be delivered dead. If the calf is already dead before delivery, I would pull on the head snare with the puller. Lubrication is very important during delivery. We prefer a disinfectant soap. Many of you may use “J-Lube” in deliveries. If you use this product in the vagina and uterus and then need to perform a C-section, the heifer’s life is at risk if any of this product leaks into the animal’s abdomen.

We also perform C-section on heifers and cows for problems other than large calves. Sometimes the vaginal canal will not seem to dilate. This may be the result of a uterine torsion. The uterus flips when the calf is smaller and does not flip back. As the calf grows in the cow the uterus explodes and is unable to rotate to its normal position. When you examine these animals vaginally, your hand will tend to follow the vagina in a corkscrew or twisting fashion. Sometimes these can be returned by rolling the cow and massaging the uterus extra-abdominally. Others utilize a de-torsion rod to spin the calf and uterus. For me the C-section is the fasted and simplest.

Fetal deformities and dead calves are also removed by C-section. These procedures require more extensive post operative care because secondary infections may occur. Some veterinarians prefer embryotomy (surgical dissection of the calf in the uterus). This is a time consuming process and requires good upper body strength.

If the calf is alive and the pull appears difficult, I prefer the C-section. Many of my producers call when the heifer is on the way to the clinic and they don’t attempt to pull the calf. I prefer to do a standing left blank whenever possible. Most of my producers will have the animals clipped and prepped before I even arrive. Extra assistance is needed when the calf is pulled through the abdominal wall. Once the calf is delivered and the navel properly clamped, it is the assistant’s job to resuscitate the calf. I prefer the calf be hung to allow fluids to drain from the respiratory system. I feel several calves died as a result of inspiratory problems 15 to 20 minutes after surgery. If the calf has passed meconium (first manure) in the uterus before birth, it is much more critical to clean the air passages.

The Cesariean-section is a viable procedure to minimize cow and calf trauma during difficult births. Your results should be good if you make your decision early and receive a live calf from a standing cow. A visit with your veterinarian will set parameters for your herd to minimize losses. Best of luck on what will probably be a troublesome calving season.

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