The Upper Midwest calving season is well underway. While drought conditions have brought an abundance of problems, some producers have enjoyed calving in the drier weather.

“Drought-like conditions are kind of favorable for calving. Since it is nice and dry and you don’t have to deal with all the mud,” Whitney Klasna said.

Klasna and her husband are Montana cattle ranchers, with a Hereford-based herd. The pair’s calving season has been off to a smooth start, their herd being about one-third of the way through with calving. They have experienced minimal losses, also known as stillbirths or abortions.

“We have had really great luck this calving season. The cows were in good condition coming into calving season, so that has a lot to do with it,” Klasna said.

Stillbirth or abortion rates normally fall anywhere from 1% to 2% of cows in a single herd. If a producer is seeing higher than 2%, they should contact their veterinarian.

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According to Gerald Stokka, a North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist, an abortion is the discharge of the fetus prior to the end of the normal gestational period. A multitude of abortions happen within the first 45 days of conception. The fetuses may be so small that many go undetected or are not seen.

Brett Webb, director of the North Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said abortions are a firsthand response to a problem that negatively affects the customary function of any of the three main parts in pregnancy: the dam, the placenta and the fetus. A multitude of problems can cause abortions to occur such as genetic abnormalities, toxicosis, viruses and much more.

“The best chance of identifying what caused an abortion is prompt submission of fetal and placental tissues and maternal blood or serum to a diagnostic laboratory,” Stokka said. “Contact your veterinarian for assistance with diagnostic efforts, sample submission and identifying management strategies to reduce the risk of future abortions.”