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5 Steps To Avoid Calving Difficulties In Heifers

23 May 2017
  1. Choice of bull to run with heifers. Choose a bull with the highest, positive EBV for Calving Ease Direct.  This will ensure their calves are the size and shape to be born easily.  (This is even more critical if the calves he produces are to be kept as replacements as they will contribute equally to the size and shape of their calf.)
  2. Select replacement heifers which are sired by bulls with the highest positive EBVs for Calving Ease Direct and Calving Ease Maternal/Daughters. These are likely to have the correct skeletal frame eg pelvic area and muscularity to easily push out a calf.  (When selecting a maternal bull to breed homebred replacements having a high Calving Ease Direct and Calving Ease Maternal/Daughters is equally vital.)
  3. Select heifers born in the first month of the calving period. This will ensure they are at least 14 months old when they are mated and their pelvises will be well grown when they calve.  (This also has the advantage that heifers born in the first month will come from the most fertile cows and, being older when mating starts, will be more likely to be cycling regularly.)
  4. Condition at calving. Overfat heifers are likely to have more calving difficulties due to them laying down fat in their pelvic canal, restricting space for the calf and from the fat laid down in their muscle making them tire more quickly.  (Feeding an extra 15 g of magnesium per day during the last few weeks prior to calving will improve muscle tone and provide a wetter, better lubricated calving.)
  5. Post calving first calved heifers should be grouped separately and put on the best feed available. A good target is to feed the equivalent of an extra 1 – 2 kg of barley per day more than mature cows.  (This is critical to allow heifers to continue to grow post calving and maintain condition to maximise their subsequent fertility.)


A good example of the impact of Maternal Calving Ease could be seen in the Jersey and Saler.  Both breeds have a worldwide reputation for having cows which almost never have calving difficulties.

Basil Lowman,


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