Our beef cow named Ninja, a black bald-face (usually an Angus/Hereford cross), calved this morning.
I want to share a few things about cows, calving, and gestation with you.
Cattle are herd animals and prey animals. Herd animals feel safe within their group. Most cows will come visit the cow who just calved. They may even help clean up the afterbirth. (Which means they eat it.)
Other visitors are definitely not welcome. Momma cows who have just calved can be extremely dangerous. You must be very careful when going out to check on them. This cow is very tame and accustomed to us; however, she will charge the dogs or any other animal that comes near. That is because as a prey animal, she has an innate instinct to protect her baby.
The act of licking the calf clean provides stimulation to the calf and bonding between the two. You can interrupt the bond if you get involved and try to clean the calf yourself. That bonding is crucial to a healthy calf.
Another thing that happens very quickly after birth is standing, nursing, and following mom. The calf must stand and nurse within the first few hours of birth.
Colostrum (the first milk) contains the calf’s entire immune system and is essential to life. I have a separate post on colostrum you can read.
You will notice that the hooves are very soft. This is to prevent injury to the cow during the birthing process. Those hooves will harden quickly as they dry out.
You should also note that all cows stand by getting up on their back legs first. Many people will mistakenly try to pull a cow up by its head. This won’t work because they need their back feet up before their front feet.
Gestation length for a cow is very nearly the same as human: 283 days.
His half brother is in the background of this picture, just a few weeks older.
We routinely breed our cows to calf in the spring or summer so the grass is lush and the cows will produce plenty of milk.
He should be nursing shortly and that navel will dry up by tomorrow.