A cesarean section (“C-section”) is an incision through the abdominal wall into the abdomen which is used to isolate the uterus. An incision is made through the uterus in order to deliver the calf. C-sections are necessary in cattle when vaginal delivery is too difficult and is not progressing in the expected amount of time and therefore could endanger the life of the cow or the life of her calf.
C-Sections are generally performed on calves that are too large, which is common with an immature heifer (first time mother) and for embryo transfer calves. Other indications include:
- Inadequate cervical dilation (not enough relaxation of the cervix muscles)
- Abnormal pelvic bone conformation (shape) in the cow
- Rupture of the cow's abdominal musculature
- Problems with uterine position or uterine function
- Abnormalities of the cow's uterus or vagina
- Abnormal calf position that is not correctable through the vagina
- Fetal monsters (congenital defects)
- Presence of a dead fetus
A complete physical examination should be performed that includes an assessment of the cow’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. Mammary glands should be checked for infection andrumen motility (digestive motion) is evaluated and treated concurrently, if necessary. Rectal and vaginal examinations may also be performed to assess the position of the uterus and fetus.
Prognosis for recovery after C-section is generally good. To avoid C-sections, the cow and bull being bred should be of similar size and cows should be monitored carefully when they are close to delivery. Your veterinarian should be contacted immediately in the event of a difficult birthing to maximize the chances of cow and fetus survival. Postoperatively, the cow should be watched for dehydration and mastitis (mammary gland infection). Incisional complications and retained placentas (a placenta which is not passed within 24 hours) may also occur following C-section and may require treatment with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.