One of underlying reasons for this observed heightened risk of calfhood disease is likely due to hypoxia – a shortage of oxygen. When a calf from a difficult birth takes its first breaths, it is not only a great feeling for everyone involved, and also thereby ending the period of hypoxia. Symptoms of hypoxic neonates include a weak to absent suckle reflex, difficulty maintaining sternal recumbency (upright), and requiring more time to stand (Dufty and Sloss, 1977). There are a variety of things that can be done to help promote respiration post-delivery including:
- Clean straw inserted into the nostril
- Pouring ice water on the head
- Placing calves on their stomachs can help open airways for respiration.
After the calf is breathing, the common assumption is that this calf is now equivalent to its contemporaries that were delivered without complication. This could not be further from the truth, seldom is consideration given to what has happened under the surface of that calf, what kind of survival mechanisms were engaged, and what the lingering side effects might be. Metabolically the dystocia calf is not out of the woods after it has been delivered and still has severe life-threatening challenges to overcome.