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 journalArticlepeer-review

21 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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support was provided by Alejo Gonzalez, Anselmo Ayohua, Nicolas Quechulpa, Juan Quechulpa, Rafael Orta, Pedro Galvan and Jacob Flores) at Emerald Dairy II/Calf-A (Emerald, WI). Without their constant assistance and support, the completion of this study would have been impossible. Valacta Inc . (Montréal, QC, Canada), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Ottawa, ON, Canada), the Ontario Veterinary College (Guelph, ON, Canada) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Guelph, ON, Canada). The authors also thank Jeffrey Rushen (University of British Columbia, Agassiz, BC, Canada) for his help with the revision of the manuscript, Ken Leslie (University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada) for his support with the planning of this experiment, and the owners (John Vrieze and Brittany Vrieze) and staff (Rolando Juarez, Antonio Oncha,

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Dairy Science Association


  • calf vigor
  • calving assistance
  • stillbirth


Dive into the research topics of 'Systematic early obstetrical assistance at calving: I. Effects on dairy calf stillbirth, vigor, and passive immunity transfer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this