Elbow Lock in Calving

Shame on me, I skipped posting yesterday. It snowed, it was cold and sloppy. I hid in the house and only left to tag about 20 calves and check heavies. In short, it was uneventful. The cows all behaved beautifully, even the one I marked as aggressive last year.

Today was headed towards uneventful until I came across a heifer calving while bringing the heifers into the corral. I sorted her off on the way in so she would be close.

Two hours later my husband checked her and thought it looked as though she had a leg back. We walked her into the calving chute and my husband cleaned her and suited up. When he went to find what position the calf was in, the position seemed normal.

The heifer had only had a couple hours (including stage one of parturition) to calve and usually heifers need a little more time, like 4 hours so long as they are making progress every 30 min. We brought her in because one leg was out to the elbow and the other couldn’t be seen through the water sac.

Bringing a cow or heifer into the chute doesn’t mean the calf HAS to be pulled. It’s quite easy to just decided to giver her more time to calve on her own and back her out of the chute into a pen. This is what we did, and 30 minutes later she had a calf herself!

Looking back a bit, I’m somewhat positive that the heifer was having a little difficulty. One of the more simple presentation/positioning problems is when the calf is elbow locked. We probably didn’t even notice this because my husband would had pushed the calf in a little when he inspected the cow. He pulled both legs forward to make sure they were there and that the head was in the right position. Then we let her out to calve on her own.


There is a really great article with better pictures from Colorado State University, Corrections of Common Abnormal Presentations, Positions, and Postures.

Sometimes people have those moments when they realize they know something they didn’t know they knew? What? Okay, maybe that’s just me…..

When I went out to check 30 minutes after we turned the heifer into a pen, I could hear her mooing before I even got there. It sounded like she had a calf. I didn’t know I knew that sound. But I guess after hearing it time and time again, it clicked.

I saw something else interesting today while putting out pairs. Looking out into the horse pasture where we put our cow/calf pairs, I saw a coyote. The coyotes have been a problem recently. My father in law shot one again this morning.

This coyote was wandering around the middle of the lot and some cows started taking notice. It got too close to one cow’s calf and the cow ran in after it, crazy moos and all. Then the other cows in the lot started getting riled up, chasing the coyote away from the calves. It was so neat to see the cows in action fending off a predator!

I didn’t take many pictures today, but I can’t leave you without a calving picture…..



4 thoughts on “Elbow Lock in Calving

  1. April Freeman

    I had to assist my Jersey cow this fall because her calf had both elbows back. He was a very large calf, especially for my little milk cow…like 85 lbs. After I got him straightened out, she still wasn’t progressing. I think the calf was just too big for her little uterus to push out; I’d been checking for hours and her contractions just weren’t very strong. Thankfully, my husband arrived home from work right when it was time to pull. But I tell you, putting my hand in her birth canal and feeling that calf suck my fingers was THE COOLEST thing I’ve ever done here on the farm. (we’ve never had to assist with a birth like that before) I was so thankful that correcting the issue was no big deal.

    1. glattheranch Post author

      I’ve never even done that! My husband does most of the work, I assist. I don’t like calving problems but if I had to choose one I would choose this. I love that you could feel it nurse.

      1. April Freeman

        My husband has an off-farm job. We’re still in the hobby farm phase of things, so I’ve had to learn how to do TONS of things here on the farm because he’s gone so much. You know how it is, you do what you gotta do when things happen. I’ve learned GOBS of veterinary stuff this year because it’s been such a tough winter. I enjoy it though. You’d never believe I was a city girl growing up!

      2. glattheranch Post author

        Me too! I think we need a “gone country” club (with jackets made of course). I tell my husband he’s lucky in some ways I didn’t grow up on a ranch because then I would most likely have a different way of doing things instead of being a clean slate. I’ll never forget the day when I felt I had actually earned the rights to wear a pair of spurs.

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