Pulling Calves

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In the posting on advanced articles someone asked about pulling calves. I've only have to pull about ten in five years - mostly first calving heifers. Have found two dead cows, and possible a third, with a calf sticking out. Fortunately I have been able to get all of the live ones into the correl and all, but one, into the headgate.

On the first one, I bought her as what I thought was just a big heifer. Wasn't even pre-checked at the auction. A couple of days later noticed feet sticking out. Got my neighbor over. We got her in the corral but she layed down before we could get her in the headgate. Fortunately there was a plank fence there and we put straps on the legs, attached them to a chain, then to my pickup and used it to pull out the calf under the bottom rail, assisted by an application of K-J Jelly (I have a gallon of it). Calf pulled out and mom and calf did fine.

On the others I've gotten into the headgate, I put on a strap on each leg and then use a come-a-long to pull out the calf in stages. Once the shoulders clear, the calf pretty well just drops out.

If I had to pull a calf in the field I have a yoke-type device which rests on the cow's rear end and also uses a come-a-long.

On one cow I noticed her out in the pasture acting like she was wanting to have a calf. Got her loaded and took her to the vet. As I suspected, it was a breech birth and the calf was already dead. Have to be cut and taken out in pieces. Stink!!!

All of my calving-assisting items come from Jeffers (800-JEFFERS). Very good people to do business with.

K-Y jelly reminds me it is joke time: The company which makes Vasoline sent out a research to find out how people use the product so they can target market it. At one house the housewife told him it was used to improve their sex life. The research said out of hundreds and hundreds of interviews she was the first to ever admit it. He asked it how it helped. Woman said, "I smear in on the bedroom door knob to keep the kids from interupting."

-- Ken S. (scharabo@aol.com), July 28, 2000


Ken, I have found many of your postings to be very informative. One question- Do you cull your cows that have experienced difficulty in calving?

-- Terri Perry (tperry@stargate.net), July 28, 2000.

So far I haven't had a cow have difficulty in claving two years in a row. If she did, then that would be taken into consideration. I don't breed my heifers until they are two years old so they are already cow-size when they calve the first time. Still, that first one is sometimes difficult and they just need a little help. After that they are use to it. My two biggest culling factors are not having a calf prior to June 15th and temperment/disposition. How do they react when I am walking among the herd in the field? I don't expect to be able to come up and scratch their ears or back (as some of mine let me do), but they had better not take off for the other side of the pasture either. How do they act in the corral, chute and headgate? This is where I can get hurt. It only takes one spooky cow to take the entire herd where you didn't intend them to go.

I tell this story on one Jersey I had. I knew it was about time for her to calve so I went out in the pasture to check. She saw me get out of the truck, walked up and put her rear end to me with a nose and two feet sticking out. I just grabbed the feet and when she pushed, I pulled. Had the little bull out in no time. I don't put her in the category of pulling a calf, she just wanted a little bit of help. Alas, she got milk fever on the next two calves so she no longer works for me.

-- Ken S. (scharabo@aol.com), July 28, 2000.

Hi Ken, I love cow stories. Hope you'll post some more. What kind of cows do you have and do you ever make any available for sale?

-- Stephanie Masters (ajsd@gateway.net), July 28, 2000.

I have what is known as a commercial herd, which means I have a bit of this and a bit of that. Am trying to switch from a Brahman to Angus influence in the herd. As much as I like Brahman's they just take so much of a discount at the livestock market - which is my only practical outlet. Drawback on all black is they all look alike and it is hard to tell who is doing what. Some of my cows I can tell you who they are from 1/4 mile away.

I don't have an actual nose count. I have somewhere around 50 cows, 45 1/2 calves, two bulls and 21 young heifers, only two of which are destined to stay with the herd. (The 1/2 calf is because one is pulling a really good dying act on me and I can't catch it for treatment without getting up the entire herd and this calf simply isn't worth it.) I'm sorry, but that's the way the game works.

You would be much better off buying locally, but bear in mind you are buying someone else's culls unless it is a close-out sale. If you are buying from the livestock market watch how they act in the ring. The least little sign of spookiness eliminates them from my consideration, even if they just seem nervous or edgy. If they come in and almost immediately go to the exit door you can pretty well assume there have been there before, perhaps on their annual trip.

At least locally, black is beautiful and white is right.

-- Ken S. (scharabo@aol.com), July 28, 2000.

Ken S. Have you ever heard of Randall Lineback cattle? Was told they are an old breed, pretty easy to handle.

-- Bergere (autumnhaus@aol.com), July 29, 2000.

I have heard of the lineback. Apparently there are several varieties, such as the Randall and Red. Probably the only difference between them and other breeds is the white stripe down their backs, such as Belted Galaways have the white mid section. I believe the Linebacks are considered to be a dual purpose breed - milk and beef. If you want to know more about the Randall's contact Robert Gear, P.O. Box 1137, Greenfield, MA 01302.

I don't know if he still does it, but a guy in Mass. was using Linebacks as nurse cows. By pulling the calves off before they started to graze, he sold them to a gourmet restaurant as veal. Each cow raised something like 11 calves (in small groups) to about two months of age.

Any cattle breed can be easy to handle. Some of my gentlest cows and two bulls I had were Brahmans. Treat them well and they respond in kind.

Basically what you want to do is look for factors which fit your particular area. The best way to do this is to see what the local commercial cattle farmers are raising. Also to be taken into consideration is your use for them. Even the best Angus isn't going to be a family milk cow.

-- Ken S. (scharabo@aol.com), July 29, 2000.

Ken I've had to pull more than my fair share of calves from my heifers also. My choice of tools to use would be the calf puller that braces against the cows hind end. It has a come-a-long on it to keep the tension. The best feature though is the ability to pull when the cow is pushing and ease off the pressure when she's not. That's very important when pulling a calf. The last time I hooked a come-a-long to a tree and pulled, I got the calf and the uterus too. No fun. Vet says you have to be able to let the cow rest between contractions. Just my two cents. Rob Clarksburg, WV

-- Rob Shipe (RShipe1046@aol.com), July 30, 2000.

How can this be avoided all together? I have kept my heifers seperated from the bull until they are fully two years old in hopes of avoiding these scenarios. How many of these cows, even older ones, were bred too soon the first time or to a bull from a large breed. If they are bred before they have finished growing themselves, they never reach their optimal size. This will be our first year for calves from our heifers so I hope my theory plays true. We'll see........

-- Mona (jascamp@ipa.net), July 31, 2000.

Really all you can do is to be prepared. Have the equipment available. Know when to step in to help. On the two cows I found dead with a calf sticking out, both were older cows. Maybe if I had found them in time I might have been able to help. Monitor your herd closely, perhaps even keeping first calving heifers in a separate pasture. Usually a cow about to calf goes off by herself (if it is from your herd, sometimes mom comes along to provide moral support). They will normally bag up. Norally you can notice the back end raise a bit as the calf starts into the birthing channel. The vaginal area will become larger and moist. On some of my cows one would swear if she stepped wrong the calf would fall out. Typical behavor is to lay down and get up a lot. After each contraction they may get up and look around back to see if anything came out. Just watch them, give them a chance on their own and only when it seems they need, and will accept, help should you step in. As noted above, don't just constantly pull. Each time the cow pushes, take up another couple of notches. It sounds a lot more difficult than it is. Once the calf is born get mom and calf together as soon as possible so they bond. I really like to see the calf get up and plugged into the dairy bar.

-- Ken S. (scharabo@aol.com), July 31, 2000.

Some years back one of my cousins was managing a ranch in eastern Washington. The neighbor's Charolais bull got in with the yearling heifers (I don't know what breed, but smaller than Charolais) and they all had to be pulled. I think most of them died. So you do have to be careful about breed sizes and age at breeding -- some breeds are known for being easy calvers, or for throwing calves with small shoulders.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (stonycft@worldpath.net), July 31, 2000.

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