Template: Skinny | Lean | Well Rounded | Plump
Saturday, 04 October 2008 16:49

Cattle birth

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)
  • A cow may spend couple of hours seeking out a birth site, and going through the first stages when the calf moves into the birth canal and the water bag appears.
  • The next delivery stage after bursting her waters and appearance of calf should take about 15 minutes. If longer then investigate what is going on or get help. The calf should be born in a diving position. If not, you’ll need to sort out the problem.
  • The final stage is passing of the afterbirth, which the cow may eat for hormonal benefit and removal from predators in wild.
  • Disturbance will up upset and delay this pattern. It can have bad effects on calf as it dries out and makes the passage more difficult.
  • The calf should be on its feet in 15-30 minutes and should start teat seeking. It’s vitally important that the calf gets colostrum. It needs at least 2 litres before 6 hours old.
  • The calf nuzzles the side of cow feeling for warm bare skin with teat. It can be very frustrating for calf, especially if their mother is a heifer as she may panic and turn to look at calf.
  • Inexperienced dams may attack the calf, and not stand still and nuzzle calf’s tail head to encourage it to suck.
  • Bonding is very quick in cattle and takes only a few minutes. It is based on smell and vision.
  • This can lead to problems of parent accuracy in large herds where groups are synchronised to calve together. Staff have to make Identification decisions that can be 13% wrong but pedigrees can now be confirmed by DNA tests.
  • Most cows will not accept another calf after this unless you play other tricks on her. Some cows will accept any alien calves.
  • The calf will follow the cow, or any moving object a few hours after birth.
  • Calves often fall into drains during this early mothering period as they stagger about.
  • They can also fall on to the power fence and the constant shock on their wet body can kill them.
Dr Clive Dalton

Clive did a Ph.D. in sheep breeding at the University of North Wales at Bangor. After lecturing at Leeds University, he came to New Zealand to do research with MAF. Because of his communication skills, he moved to the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre to be fully involved in interpreting science for practical application by farmers.

After 14 years he moved to teach at the Waikato Polytechnic where he taught young future farmers. He won the 1993 Landcorp Communicator of the Year award and the 1999 Sir Arthur Ward award for agricultural communication.