If a pregnant cow’s due date falls outside the desired time for calving, the dairy farmer may decide to induce the calf, causing it to be born prematurely. Cows will then return to close-to-normal production and fertility in the next mating season and their calves will be born within the desired calving span. Induction mimics natural calving and is done by injecting the cow with a corticosteroid hormone which stimulates final udder development and prepares the reproductive tract for birth. Induced cows will calve between eight to fourteen days later. There are, however, problems with the technique of calving induction:
· Calf death – calves born dead or having to be killed because they are not viable.
· Method of euthanasia – a blow to the head is used to kill unviable calves.
· Maternal death – death of the cow as a result of infection due to retained foetal membrane.
· Retained foetal membrane – the foetal membrane is not expelled after birth.
· Calving difficulty – smaller calves may not be positioned correctly at calving.
· Photosensitisation – increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light causing sunburn on the cow’s teats.
The RSPCA is opposed to the use of induced calving as a management practice to regularise milk production in a dairy herd as it causes observable adverse welfare problems for both cow and calf.
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