Anyone who’s been through even one calving season has most likely dealt with calving difficulty. Dystocia is the eight-dollar word for calving difficulty, and it’s the biggest cause of calf death loss at birth. It can be minimized by managing things like genetics and nutrition, but once the calving season is upon us, those things are in the past. Now the focus becomes observation and possible intervention. Being prepared to provide assistance is critical. It’s been estimated that timely and appropriate intervention can save up to 70 percent of calves that otherwise would die due to dystocia. It’s also just as important to know when not to intervene, and just let the process play out uninterrupted. The key is experience and knowing the normal sequence of events up to and through calving. It will vary tremendously between individual cows. It’s also important to know the limits of our abilities and when to call professional help. In fact, part of your preparation should be to develop a plan of action with your veterinarian. This article is meant to be general in nature and simply serve as a refresher of what to look for during calving. Remember, these signs are extremely variable, and may go completely unnoticed.