Calving (Parturition)

Calving is a natural process which normally takes place without help. Close observation is required in case the cow has difficulties. Cows calving for the first time (heifers) tend to have more problems than older cows and therefore need more attention when calving.

Normal Calving

The water bag appears through the vulva. The cow will strain more. The head of the calf will appear and this breaks the bag. You will then be able to see both of the calf’s front feet. It takes 4 – 6 hours for the calving to reach this stage. In heifers it might take longer. As the chest comes through the vagina the calf starts to breathe. It is better to leave the cow alone to give birth naturally. However if you want to help with the calving you can gently pull the calf by its feet. If the navel cord is still attached to the cow you can cut it with a clean sharp knife or a pair of scissors, then put tincture of iodine or alcohol on the end of the navel cord.

Caring for the Cow after Calving

Give the cow clean water to drink immediately after she has calved as she will be thirsty.

The water bag (afterbirth) will come out naturally but you can help to remove it by gently pulling it. The afterbirth should have come away by 24 hours after the birth. If the afterbirth remains in the uterus it will cause an infection and you will need to get your veterinarian to help.

Allow the calf to suckle from its mother as soon as possible so that it takes in the colostrum, the yellowish milk which is produced immediately after birth. The colostrum is rich in protein and protects the calf against disease.

Some people use the colostrum for their food but it is essential to make the calf strong and healthy and should be left for the calf. You must allow the calf to take colostrum for at least four days after its birth.