Simulator "Frosty" gives students hands-on calf delivery experience

Olivia Nebergall of Anamosa pulls a simulated calf out of “Frosty,” a life-sized calving simulator, during the calving event Jan. 3 at the Citizens State Bank Youth Development Center. Looking on are Connor Andresen of Anamosa (left) and Iowa State University veterinarian Patrick Phillips. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Dani Gravel of Anamosa reaches inside the calving simulator “Frosty” to determine the position of the calf.

Veterinarian Patrick Phillips (left) teaches students about calving during the Jan. 3 event.
Pete Temple
Express Sports/Ag Editor

     Students got the opportunity to learn about calving, and to practice delivering a calf, during a workshop Tuesday, Jan. 3 at the Citizens State Bank Youth Development Center in Monticello.

     About 20 students attended the event, led by Iowa State University veterinarians Patrick Phillips and Grant Dewell.

     “Frosty,” a life-size calving simulator from the ISU vet school clinical skills lab, was on hand. Inside Frosty was a fully articulated 70-pound calf.

     In most cow calf operations, Phillips said, he sees fewer than 5 percent of cows having problems calving (known as dystocia). But when progress is no longer being made, because the cow has stopped trying or some other reason, human assistance is needed.

     Phillips discussed with the students the three P’s of calving: presentation, position and posture.

     Presentation, he explained, is whether the calf is forward or backward inside the cow. Position refers to whether it is upright, on its side or upside down. And posture concerns the relationship of the head and legs to the rest of the body, whether one leg is turned under the calf, or the head is tilted back.

     Wearing long plastic sleeves, several of the students took turns reaching inside Frosty to learn the positioning of the calf. Some got the opportunity to loop stainless steel chains around the calf’s legs and then pull it out, using handles attached to the chains.

     Phillips and Dewell taught the students to use two loops around the calf’s legs, one above the fetlock and one below, so as to disseminate the pull power over more of the leg and reduce the risk of the leg breaking.

     Two Anamosa students, Olivia Nebergall and Connor Andresen, worked together to pull the calf out, and were able to do so quickly.

     “I’ve done this a couple times,” Nebergall said afterward. “It’s fun. I like doing it.”

     Phillips also advised the students of difficult situations, such as hiplock.

     “A cow’s pelvis is taller than it is wide, and the calf’s pelvis is wider than it is tall,” Phillips said, noting that when the two meet, the calf can become stuck. So, he said, he puts a half-nelson on the calf and twists the calf as his partner pulls.

     “Now the calf is on the side,” he said. “The widest part of the calf’s pelvis is on the widest part of her pelvis.”

     Dewell and Phillips offered other tips, such as using large amounts of lube to avoid damage inside the cow and to keep her as clean as possible.


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