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Cow birthing simulator used to educate Oklahoma State Fair visitors

The Hereford Dystocia Simulator is used to simulate difficult births in cows.
Xcaret Nuñez
The Hereford Dystocia Simulator is used to simulate difficult births in cows.

Fairgoers can visit a life-like cow birth simulator at the Oklahoma State Fair and learn how veterinarians and livestock producers help heifers and cows through difficult births.

Beyond thrilling rides and mouth-watering fair food, the Oklahoma State Fair showcases agricultural exhibits for fairgoers to learn from and enjoy.

Oklahoma State University Extension’s display of its Hereford Dystocia Simulator is one example of an educational opportunity available to visit at the fair. The life-like beef cow device, made out of rubber and fiberglass, is used to simulate difficult births in cows.

Dr. Barry Whitworth, a veterinarian and food and animal quality specialist with OSU’s Extension, recognizes the help heifers and cows sometimes need when giving birth, especially through difficult deliveries, is often unavailable. He said the calving simulator has been a valuable tool to provide student veterinarians and livestock producers the hands-on experience necessary to prepare for a cow’s labor.

OPMX's Xcaret Nuñez interviews veterinarian and food and animal quality specialist Dr. Barry Whitworth at the Oklahoma State Fair.
Kateleigh Mills
OPMX's Xcaret Nuñez interviews veterinarian and food and animal quality specialist Dr. Barry Whitworth at the Oklahoma State Fair.

“The nice thing about this simulator is that we can open it up, look inside it and show them how calves can be positioned inside,” Whitworth said. “We can pretty much simulate the type of issues you might have to deal with when you have a dystocia cow.”

Heifers and cows need help giving birth about 10% of the time, according to theU.S. Department of Agriculture. Not knowing how to help a cow going through abnormal labor, such as abreeched birth, could cost livestock producershundreds of dollars. So large-animal veterinarians and producers often work together to deliver a calf safely.

Whitworth said he hopes fairgoers can come away with more understanding of what goes into producing beef after visiting the calving simulator display.

“It’s no secret that most people nowadays have no clue where their food comes from,” Whitworth said. “So it’s always nice to get out into public and show them about what goes on in the reproductive cycle in cattle and the people that are producing that food for them.”

A Cow’s Delivery Process

Whitworth, who’s been a veterinarian for 32 years, said veterinarians and producers look for the presentation, position and posture of the calf when feeling inside the cow’s birth canal. The ideal presentation of the calf would be frontwards facing, the ideal position would be right-side up on its belly, and the ideal posture would be both the calves' front legs and head facing towards the birth canal.

The Hereford Dystocia Simulator, or the calving simulator, will be on display every day at the Oklahoma State Fair until its final day, Sunday, Sept. 25. It’slocated in the AGtropolis exhibit, in the Oklahoma Expo Hall, by the Barnyard Birthing Center. For more information about the calving process, visitOklahoma State University’s Extension website.

Whitworth prepares the cow simulator by spraying the cow's uterus, a clear see-through bag, and a 55-pound life-like rubber calf with soap and water to simulate the amniotic fluids that would be present in a real pregnant cow. After placing the heavy calf inside the cow, I put long protective gloves on, and Whitworth instructed me to feel inside the cow’s birth canal for the calf. The calf is in an ideal presentation, position and posture called the dorsal sacral position.

After tying a double half hitch around the fake calf’s front legs, in a real-life situation, Whitworth said the veterinarian or producer would pull the calf in momentum to the cow pushing. After pulling the calf out, he said the veterinarian or producer would then tickle the newly born calf’s nose with straw, so it sneezes and clears itself of any mucus. Then they would place the calf on its sternum, or chest, so the mother cow can take care of the rest.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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