Stillbirth in Calves

What is Stillbirth in Calves?

Stillbirth in calves is defined as the death of a foetus before or during calving at full term.
Stillbirth in calves, like calving difficulty, is a much larger problem in first-lactation calving than in later older cows. The incidence in 2nd and later lactations drops to half or less than the rate for heifers.

Symptoms of Stillbirth in Calves

  • The calf dies before or during calving at full term

Causes of Stillbirth in Calves

The causes of stillborn calves vary and are influenced partly by the calf and partly by the mother that is giving birth. Leaving aside genetics there are a number of causes of stillborn calves such as:

  • Overfat cows & heifers
  • Insufficient space in housing
  • Injury
  • Deficiencies in magnesium, selenium and iodine in transition and calving
  • Problems from Stillbirth in Calves

    • One effect of stillbirths in calves is that cows having stillborn calves have an increased risk of culling or death throughout the subsequent lactation.
    • Days open increased by up to 88 days compared to cows that had live calves so stillbirth losses are far greater than just the value of the calves.

    Stillbirth in Calves – Solutions

    • Cows should be at a target BCS of 3.5 at calving and heifers should be well developed and mature at calving.
    • Moving the cow more than two days prior to calving can lead to shorter calving duration, reduced level of assistance and a lower risk of difficult calving and stillbirths when compared to moving cows in the early stages of calving.
    • Calving supervision and intervention when needed can reduce the rate of stillbirths.
    • Minimise losses by ensuring that all cows receive an accurate dose of a quality pre-calver mineral blend for 6-8 weeks pre-calving.

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