Bull talk

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Calving info

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I brought a couple of very small Dexters to my farm to breed for a Dexter owner without a bull.  The original plan  was to breed them, and take them home, but, weeks stretched into months, and soon it was time to think about calves.  It was into December and Buttercup's udder was maturing and growing heavier each time I checked.  By Christmas eve, she was standing off from the other cows, and I was sure there would be a Christmas baby.  Wrong.  Early each morning I would rush to check on Buttercup, and each evening it was the last chore.  The udder continued to mature, but no baby.  Through January and into February I watched Buttercup and waited for the calf that never came.  Around the early days of February I began to notice a mucous discharge.  . and the watch began in earnest again.  Still no baby.  By 10 days the discharge was always noticeable and grew in volume.  This cow was driving me crazy! The ligaments by the tail had steadily relaxed and seemed deep enough for my fists to comfortably nestle within.  The vulva area had been relaxed and "puffy" for what seems liked ages.   She never stopped gorging herself with feed, and the discharge was always normal in color so there were never signs to create worry or a call to the vet.  Just my first experience with a cow who looked like she would be ready to calve weeks and weeks before the event occured.  Early in the morning on March 1st, 2006, Buttercup, without any problems calved a beautiful little black heifer.

For most livestock owners, waiting and watching for that first calf is always a time of mystery and questions.   Here is a really good article from the Okla state website. My best tip is to watch the udder.  When the teats begin to "strut", ( be engorged and look like they are pushing out sideways), the calf will not be long in coming.


 

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Signs of impending calving in cows or heifers
   As the calving season approaches, the cows will show typical signs that will indicate parturition is imminent.  Changes that are gradually seen are udder development, or making bag and the relaxation and swelling of the vulva or springing.  These indicate the cow is due to calve in the near future.  There is much difference between individuals in the development of these signs and certainly age is a factor.  The first calf heifer, particularly in the milking breeds, develops udder for a very long time, sometimes for two or three months before parturition. The springing can be highly variable too.  Most people notice that Brahman influence cattle seem to spring much more than does a Holstein. Typically, in the immediate 2 weeks preceding calving, springing becomes more evident, the udder is filling, and one of the things that might be seen is the loss of the cervical plug.  This is a very thick tenacious, mucous material hanging from the vulva.  It may be seen pooling behind the cow when she is lying down.  Some people mistakenly think this happens immediately before calving, but in fact this can be seen weeks before parturition and therefore is only another sign that the calving season is here.  The immediate signs that usually occur within 24 hours of calving would be relaxation of the pelvic ligaments and strutting of the teats.  These can be fairly dependable for the owner that watches his cows several times a day during the calving season. The casual observer or even the veterinarian who is knowledgeable of the signs but sees the herd infrequently cannot accurately predict calving  time from these signs.  The relaxation of the pelvic ligaments really can not be observed in fat cows, (body condition score 7 or greater).  However, relaxations of the ligaments can be seen very clearly in thin or moderate body condition cows and can be a clue of parturition within the next 12 - 24 hours.  These changes are signs the producer or herdsman can use to more closely pinpoint calving time.  Strutting of the teats is not really very dependable.  Some heavy milking cows will have strutting of the teats as much as two or three days before calving and on the other hand, a thin poor milking cow may calve without strutting of the teats.  Another thing that might be seen in the immediate 12 hours before calving  would be variable behavior such as a cow that does not come up to eat, or a cow that isolates herself into a particular corner of the pasture.  However, most of them have few behavioral changes until the parturition process starts.  Source: Calving Management, OSU Extension Circular E-906.