News & Advice

Calving and Lambing Preparation

Jul 30, 2019 | Beef cattle, Dry stock, Dry stock animal health & welfare, Sheep

Caroline Hamilton, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Hunty

The Joys of Spring!


Herds of calving beef cows and sheep need really good surveillance so animals having trouble giving birth are detected early. Plan whose responsibility this is for the whole duration of the calving and lambing season ahead of when the first cow calves or lamb drops. It doesn’t take long for a calf that a cow cannot pass to become a Fizzer i.e. where it is blown up and really rotten. Often by the time they get to this stage it can be very hard to get them out. Also by the time they reach this stage the cow often succumbs to septicaemia regardless of whether you get the calf out or not. The same applies to sheep.

Yard accessibility

Keep calving beef cows close to the yards so if assistance is needed it’s not a major to get her to them. Do you have safe facilities to calve her if need be? Really with a beef cow, a head bale is essential to be able to calve her safely so please check your bale is working before calving starts!

Calving and Lambing Gear

Get your gear sorted out, cleaned and ready to go before the first animal drops a calf /lamb.

Basic gear includes:

Lube and ideally a lube pump. Anexa sell the Shoof lube pump. Mine has lasted over five years with heavy use. They can make a huge difference in determining if the outcome is successful or not and will drastically reduce the risk of tearing and bruising in the cows or sheep.

Ropes and or chains. Remember to try to get as high up the legs as possible with these and if it has to be down low always double loop to spread the pressure.

Disinfectant and bucket. Often you can get faecal contamination of your gloves or gear so having a bucket full of water with disinfectant in it is essential for doing the job.

Calving jack or pulley system. Be familiar with whichever system you are using, so you now how to use it when the time comes. Always remember that a calving aid can apply the equivalent force of 5+ poeple, so it is really important to use these aids carefully to minimise any potential damage to the dam.

Navel sprays. A good blast of an iodine based spray straight after birth to the naval is great to prevent infection. Often they are being born into a muddy yard or race if help is required so it is essential if this is the case.

Rectal gloves and plastic waterproof gear. A lot of beef cows and ewes carry Leptospirosis so it is a really good idea to ensure you are protected from exposure to urine and /or birthing fluids during the process.

Cow / lamb / calf covers. It is my experience that in many instances a cow cover has been the difference between a cow that has had a really difficult calving and then having to endure really inclement weather surviving or not. They also make the cows recovery a lot quicker. They are an investment that can be used over many years as they last for yonks. Similarly calf or lamb covers are a must for a calf or lamb that has not had an easy time during the birthing process. Covers can be ordered through your local Anexa vet clinic.

Drugs to have on hand:

    • Oxytocin– If you know you regularly have to calve some cows each year this is a good drug to have on hand. After you have calved her and have checked there is no other twin inside then give her a 4-5 ml dose depending on the size of the cow. This is a smooth muscle contractant. Smooth muscle is found in the wall of the uterus and inside the udder. The advantage of this is it contracts the uterus very rapidly helping in the expulsion of the placenta. Also if there are any tears and /or bleeding it reduces the size of the tear and helps stem the bleeding.
    • Anti-inflammatories – If she has vulvar swelling and a lot of pelvic wall bruising this is a good idea. It also helps in pain relief which means they get back to eating faster and therefore produce more milk for the calf. The other advantage is as they reduce swelling, which aids penetration of antibiotics into poorly perfused tissue.
    • Antibiotics – There is no need to use antibiotics unless there is an obvious large vulva / uterine tear or the calf is rotten and the cow obviously septic. If there is a full thickness uterine tear give us a call to discuss options. Daily injected antibiotics are the best for a really septic animal but if that it is not possible then go for long acting – but ensure you are still monitoring her condition regularly as she may need a repeat treatment 3 days later. Bivatop is best given under the skin in the neck where it is absorbed faster into the blood stream than if given intramuscularly.
    • Calcium and Magnesium – Whilst beef cows don’t have nearly the issues dairy cows have with calcium or magnesium deficiency, they can have problems with this, if not clinically than sub clinically. Putting a flexi pack under her skin once she has calved can help avoid this. Cal Pro Mag is my choice and is available in a 500ml flexi.
    • DextroseAgain a lack of energy may often be the reason the animal can not give birth in the first place. Also if they have been trying to give birth for a long time this is hugely energy draining. Drench her with some Ketol or Acetol which can quickly restore her sugar levels and mean a faster recovery as well.


    • I have put this in big bold letters because it is a really excellent rule to follow. If you haven’t made any progress after trying for 10 minutes it is very unlikely that things will change after that time, so give your local Anexa vet a call. It is the best decision for the welfare of the animal and often economically too. Over the years, in multiple cases, I have been called in way past when was ideal to have to found the cow or ewe has had their uterus torn or their back end damaged by someone trying too long. With the calf or lambs I have found they have broken the live calf’s leg or jaw. This is why I really would like you to stick to the rule.

Down time

    • Calving and lambing can be an exhausting time of year with days of endless jobs. If possible, plan your breaks with someone you trust.
    • Got any questions on Calving or Lambing? Give any Anexa vet clinic a call for answers and help.


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