This section is from the book "The Farmers Ready Reference Or Hand Book Of Diseases Of Horses And Cattle", by S. C. Orr. . Also available from Amazon: The Farmer's Ready Reference;.
Although cattle in their wild and untrammeled state, guided by natural instincts, scarcely ever have any trouble during the process of parturition, the changes in their mode of life, consequent upon domestication, have rendered timely assistance frequently necessary to a safe delivery. Hence, every one who has the care of cattle should be somewhat familiar with the proceedings in a case of natural presentation and delivery.
The period of gestation in the cow is, approximately, about nine months. Some cows, and especially heifers with first calf, go a week or two over, or a week or two under the regular time without causing any material difference in the offspring. A record of the date of service should always be kept as a guide to the time about when parturition can be expected to take place. As the time for calving comes near, the udder fills out with milk; the hips will begin to spread apart, and the muscles on each side of the backbone between the hips and the root of the tail become sunken.
When the time for delivery arrives the cow generally goes away from the others, if allowed to do so. There will be uneasiness, lying down and getting up again, as the labor pains come and go. In a short time the water bag makes its appearance, breaks, and the two front feet present themselves with the nose lying between them. As long as the labor pains continue to come on and the calf is being forced through the passage, even though slowly, it is better, as a rule, not to interfere; but, if it seems to be on a "stand still" and the pains are diminishing, or the cow becoming weak from prolonged labor, aid may be given by pulling gently on the calf's feet just when the pain comes on, but at no other time.
If, after the water bag has been presented and broken, the pains subside, or continue for some time without the appearance of the calf's feet, the hand and arm should be well oiled and introduced carefully into the vagina to ascertain the cause of the delay. If there is a wrong presentation, endeaver to bring the calf into proper position. No special instructions can be of any service on this point; but only a few general hints will be given, leaving the operator to use his own good sense and judgement, according to the circumstances.
The proper presentaton is of the front feet and head, and if only a part of these are presented and the others lagging, bring them carefully into position. If the two hind feet are engaged in the passage, bring the calf away backwards. If both fore and hind feet be presented at the same time, retain the hind feet, return the front ones, and deliver the calf backwards. When delivery has been effected the cow will generally give the calf all the care that is necessary.