Here it is calving season, and in Arkansas so far we have had pretty decent weather. 60s and 70s with sunshine in February is nothing to complain about; granted we do have severe thunderstorms in the forecast. On Monday, I described the challenge we face with calving dystocia during calving season and how fetal rotation and size play a part in this. Today I wanted to share some of the ways we can prevent, or reduce the occurrence of dystocia in the cow herd.

calving dystocia cow calf

What is Calving Dystocia?

As a refresher, dystocia is described as complications during parturition and can be caused by a number of factors: fetal rotation, fetal size, multiple births, and uterine fatigue. Occurrences of dystocia increase when cattle are over- or under-weight or have a relatively small pelvic area compared to fetal size.

Virginia Tech Extension has a useful page on the topic of calving emergencies; included on this page are tips on causes, diagnosis, and prevention of dystocia.


A basic understand of cattle breed characteristics can go a long way in managing planned matings. Understand that some breeds are larger framed and generally have higher birth weights compared to other breeds. For instance, breeding a Chianina bull to a Belted Galloway cow may cause on conflict in genetic size. Even within breeds there is a large variation in calving ease and birth weight EPDs (expected progeny differences). Work to understand these concepts and learn what will best fit your animals.


First calf heifers are still growing as they raise their first calf. With this knowledge, we need to influence our nutrition program to supply enough energy for both the young cow and her calf. In a heifer growing program set a target of 66% mature weight at the time of breeding and 90% mature weight at the time of calving.

Mineral Supplementation

A high-quality mineral supplementation program should never be over looked in a livestock production system. Cattle require proper balances of calcium, phosphorous, selenium, zinc, copper, and many more minerals for correct reproductive cycles.

Pelvic Measurement

Pelvic size has much to do with a cow’s ability to give birth to a calf. Prebreeding exams for heifers can give a producer the needed information to cull individuals that may be too small for calving ease. A suggested measurement for the pelvic area is 150 square cm prebreeding for heifers.

More on Calving Dystocia

There are so many more contributing factors for dystocia during calving season and numerous methods to prevent these problems with proper management. Next time you think livestock production is driving around pastures and petting cows, take a second look at all of the management and planning that goes into the seasonal production cycles on the farm or ranch. Farmers and Ranchers deserve a little credit for business management too.

Do you have any stories about dystocia with livestock (cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, etc)? If you are not a producer, do you have any more questions about calving season? Post a comment or question on this post.

Like what you see here? Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future stories and weekly headlines. Click here to sign up.