When will she have her calf? Will I be around? Will she have any issues? Will I be able to help her if need be? Will mom reject her calf? Will they have any issues with nursing? These are some of the questions that run through my head when it’s calving season.
I’ve been around a farm my whole life, some times more often than others. My husband grew up on a farm as well. And for the past five years, we’ve had our own farm. Over those years we’ve learned to look for a few signs that will help us determine when the cows will freshen. Know that all cows are different and may not show all of the signs.
The gestation period for a cow is 270-290 days. This is a great way to keep track of when their due date is. We have a bull out with our girls, and it’s hard to know the exact date they get bred. Therefore we don’t know their due date. That’s why looking for the following signs will help you when to expect a calf. Please note* My husband keeps records of everything, including the dates he notices the bull on a cow. But maybe you purchased a cow and have no idea when she was bred.
Your Cows Bag is Filling up! This is the most common/noticeable sign to me but look at the pictures below. Note when they were taken and compare.
Her Vulva is Swollen/Loose. This may start happening 2 weeks before she actually has her calf. A sure sign she will be calving in the near future.
Mucus Discharge. You may notice a mucus material hanging from her vulva. It may get stuck to her tail as well. This can be seen as early as a few weeks before calving, but might not see until she is very close or even in labor. Definitely something to keep an eye out for.
Relaxation of the Pelvic Ligaments. This is kind of hard for me to determine, especially because we have Angus cows that are not always the friendliest. I like to feel this area to determine if they have loosened up at all. The pictures below have been taken approximately 12 hours before calving. If you feel this area and it’s hard, they are not relaxed, if it’s nice and soft, the ligaments are relaxed. When they are relaxed, that means your cow is getting close.
Behavior. You may notice your cow off to the side, away from the herd, or maybe a little restless. This is often signs of impending labor. I’ve also noticed they lick themselves a lot as well.
Tail up. This is the last and final sign for me. When a cow has her tail up, that calf is on its way!