Systematic early obstetrical assistance at calving: I. Effects on dairy calf stillbirth, vigor, and passive immunity transfer

M. Villettaz Robichaud, D. L. Pearl, S. M. Godden, S. J. LeBlanc, D. B. Haley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


A critical time for dairy cattle is the perinatal period. Good calving management is critical to reduce periparturient losses and ensure the health of the offspring. Generally, it has been recommended that cows be allowed to calve unassisted when possible, but very few studies have been published that support or refute this general guideline. To investigate the effect of early assistance, a clinical trial enrolled 257 Holstein cows that were observed through the second stage of calving and assigned randomly to 1 of 2 calving interventions: not assisted (NA) or early assistance (EA) during the second stage of parturition. Early assistance was given 15 min after the first sight of both front hooves of the calf and done using only human force. After calving, the animals were classified into 4 actual calving intervention groups: too quick to be assisted (TQ), NA, EA, and late assistance (LA; for cows in the NA group that did not calve unassisted within the 1 h maximum time frame allowed). Giving early assistance to cows during calving as a routine management practice (assigned intervention) did not negatively influence calves’ stillbirth risk, vigor at birth, or transfer of passive immunity. Calves in the LA intervention group had significantly greater odds of stillbirth than calves in the NA and EA groups, respectively. Calves in the LA group also had significantly worse vigor at birth than calves in the TQ, NA, or EA groups. Early assistance given at calving to cows that did not present signs of calving difficulties did not adversely affect calves’ likelihood of being stillborn, vigor at birth, or transfer of passive immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-702
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • calf vigor
  • calving assistance
  • stillbirth

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