Cow Giving Birth – Jan 3, 2020

Today Cherokee, our half Jersey and half Hereford cow, gave birth (calved).

She was bred by artificial insemination to a Braford (half Brahman, half Hereford) bull. Her due date was Dec 31, 2020. Cows normal gestation length is about 283 days.

This morning we noticed that she had a string of mucous under her tail and that her abdomen had “shrunk”. Both of those signs indicate that the calf has moved into the birth canal.

We expected a calf today.

Around 2 pm we noticed her away from the rest of the herd with her tail up and straining. Her “water broke” – which means the placenta tore open and the calf’s feet should be coming.

Cattle are prey animals, and that means they have babies fairly quickly. They try to hide most smells that would attract predators.

As a result, cows will immediately begin to lick up amniotic fluid.

Here is the beginning presentation of a single hoof with a piece of the amniotic sac exposed.

Her udder is much larger than a normal beef cow because she is half dairy and half beef.

Progression to the 2nd hoof showing took about 5 minutes.

Progress is slower in cows than in horses. Horses have an explosive delivery in approximately 30 minutes. Cows can take 2 hours.

If you are watching, you must be patient, but also be aware of progression. There should be continued progress. If things stall, you may need to intervene.

Indications of problems would be only one foot, two feet and no nose, anytime the cow quits pushing for more than 10-15 minutes, straining without progress, or any other issues that don’t seem like normal labor and delivery.

Cherokee had been in active labor for over 30 minutes and was having difficulty getting the forehead out. She would have eventually done this on her own, but I wanted her to have an easy delivery, so I decided to give her a little help.

You must be careful when putting ropes or chains on calf legs. You can break the legs or dislocate the joints. I like these soft ropes made specifically for this purpose. And I always use a double half hitch to spread the pressure out over a larger area.

If you decide to intervene, be sure you and your equipment are clean. I did not use gloves because I never went inside the cow. I only gave a little help pulling after the legs were out.

It is best to allow the calf to hang. I only pulled the head out. The hanging allows fluid to clear from the nose, mouth, and lungs. The cow will continue her labor to deliver the rest of the calf.

The cow should immediately begin licking the calf once delivered. This bonding is important for the cow and the calf.

Again, as prey species, the calf should be up quickly. The calf should also be nursing within 2-3 hours of birth. The entire immune system is contained in that colostrum (first milk). If the calf does not consume colostrum in the first 12 hours, it will not have a good immune system. If no colostrum in 24 hours, the likelihood of survival is extremely low without costly treatments.

Here is a link to my blog about colostrum if you would like to know more.

Mom and baby are doing well. This picture is two hours after delivery. Oh yea – It’s a girl!!!

I will link a YouTube video when I get the snippets together and get it uploaded. The internet isn’t sensational out in the country.

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