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If you own a pregnant cow, having a strong awareness of the parturition process and what to expect is extremely important. Always closely supervise your cow during the calving process, from start to finish. When a cow is ready to go into labor, she might display some telltale visual and behavioral hints. Labor in cows often takes no more than eight hours.
Increase in Vulva Size
If you notice that your cow's vulva has increased in size, then there's a good chance her body is on the verge of calving. This size increase is often referred to as "springing." If her vulva seems to be moving along with her body, then parturition probably isn't too far off. Apart from the size change, her vulva might also emit a transparent substance. Threads of mucus might conspicuously dangle from it, too.
One common sign of upcoming labor in cows is a lack of appetite, similarly to animals of many other species. If your cow seems to have no interest in eating her meals, pay attention to her, because labor is probably right around the corner.
Changes in behavior also often signify a cow that's ready to give birth. She might seem a lot more antisocial than usual, for example. She might get away from the herd in an attempt to find a calm location. She also might behave in an uncharacteristic antsy and fidgety manner -- totally unable to be still for even a minute. She might lie down repeatedly, only to stand up again within a minute.
Stomach pain is often a big indication of nearing labor in cows. Your cow might express her pain through constantly booting herself straight in the belly. These symptoms are especially prevalent in heifers -- youthful female cows that have never calved before.
Cows that are preparing to give birth often exhibit prominent udders that appear packed with milk. This "bagging up" process often takes place weeks before cows are due to give birth. For some cows, however, it can happen within the span of one day prior to parturition.
Cows of Advanced Age
It isn't uncommon for older female cows to not display any clear indications of labor. If a cow has given birth many times previously, you might not notice anything out of the ordinary. She might, however, seem especially vigilant. She also might situate her body in an atypical manner when lying down.
Watch for Body Language
A handful of key body language hints often point to parturition in cows. If a cow stands with her back rounded and tail elevated, she might be ready. Her tail also might seem a lot more mobile than usual, perhaps constantly shifting positions.
Length of Gestation in Cows
Pregnancy in cows typically lasts for between 279 and 287 days. Note that cows pregnant with female offspring usually have briefer gestational periods than those pregnant with male offspring, although the difference isn't too substantial.
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: The Cow-Calf Manager
- Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: Calving
- American Highland Cattle Association: Calving Season
- SDSU Extension iGrow: Knowing the Stages of Labor is Critical to Properly Assisting Calving Cows
- Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science: Recognizing and Handling Calving Problems
- Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture: Calving
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Beef: Know the Signs of Impending Calving in Cows or Heifers
- Government of Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food: Managing Calving in Beef Cows
- Extension: How Long Does a Cow's Pregnancy Last?
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