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Hands-on calving practice with Helga the Hereford

Once a participant successfully delivers the calf, Dr. Joe Armstrong demonstrates critical procedures for newborn health.

Helga the Hereford is a full-size cow model designed to simulate dystocia events (difficult calvings). The top of her abdomen can be removed to give those watching a view of what is happening inside the cow while another person attempts to manipulate a calf ’s position.

“The model helps participants experience an entire assisted calving event and post-calving procedures,” says Dr. Joe Armstrong, University of Minnesota Extension livestock educator. “Helga’s calf looks, feels and weighs much the same as a real calf. It even has teeth that are quite sharp, just like the real thing.”

Helga allows beef and dairy producers to practice critical skills and ask questions in a non-emergency, low-pressure situation before needing to use the skills on a live animal.

Joan Foster, president of the Snake River Valley Cattlemen’s Association, has delivered her share of calves, but still participated with Helga at Extension’s Women in Agriculture Conference in February 2023. “There are some quirky situations with calving and it’s better to experience them in a simulation before you get put into a real one,” she says.

Women in Agriculture conference participants view how a calf is situated while Dr. Joe Armstrong attempts to manipulate it. (Joan Foster is pictured in yellow.)

A trained team member demonstrates assisted calving with Helga while attendees watch and learn. Only those who first attend an educational presentation may participate in a simulated calving.

“My goal is to improve animal welfare through teaching producers management skills and to reduce the pressure in certain areas created by a lack of access to bovine veterinarians,” says Armstrong.

Authors: Joe Armstrong and Catherine Dehdashti

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