How to tell if your cow is about to calve is a question many with family milk cows ask. Hilde, our Jersey Brown Swiss cross is close to birthing, how do I know?
She is our family milk cow that we bought back in March. She was giving about 3 gallons per day and was suppose to calve in July. Hilde is half Jersey and half Brown Swiss - a combination that gives rich creamy milk that is good not only for drinking, but also cheesemaking.
In anticipation of her calving, I had the vet check her to make sure she was bred (pregnant) before we dried her off. "Drying off" is the term used for stopping the milking of a cow. It gives them a rest period before calving and beginning to produce milk again. We dried Hilde off the last week of May knowing she was due in July.
Well, July has come and gone and guess what - no calf!
I really haven't been worried because she is big. And, healthy. Acting normal. Not sick...
But, no calf!
So, after calling the vet a month or so ago, I was reassured by his diagnosis - the seller was wrong about the dates!
But, after several more weeks, I began to worry again.
She is not alone in the pasture - LBC (Little Brown Calf who is not so little anymore!) is with her. And even though he is a steer (a neutered male) when a cow goes into heat, he takes it upon himself to do what needs to be done! But, he hasn't. I mean, he hasn't tried. Hasn't tried to climb up on her like they do. Trying to keep the whole barnyard thing G-rated is difficult at times, but you get the picture!
Anyway, becoming worried again, I had the vet come out again to check her.
I had noticed that her rear end (bottom, hiney or whatever you want to call it!) was swelling. OK, technically it is called her vulva but that is not a term I use around the house. But, that is what it is called and I don't want you to be ignorant but from here on out, I will refer to it as her "rear end" - that sounds more "cultured" to me for some reason!
But, when the vet got here, it was more swollen and bulging. Besides that, she had some mucous coming out. The mucous is probably the cervical plug that dissolves about 2 weeks before calving but again, it is a sign that calving is close. The cervical plug helps protect the calf and as calving grows even closer, we will see more clear mucous coming out of her rear end.
Who would believe that I, a city girl, transplanted to the farm, would get excited about a cow's swollen bottom and mucous!!!
I know that we are soon to have a calf and raw milk again - lots of raw milk - YEAH!
If you haven't been around cows much, you may not know that they normally stand with their tale down over their rear end.
Just so you can appreciate these photos, picture me, squatting behind Hilde, waiting to get a good picture for you to see. Periodically, she would turn around as if to ask, "what are you doing back there?".
I had to wait for her to swat a fly - this causes her to move her tail so you can see this - her swollen and bulging rear end. Notice too, the full looking udder.
You can see her udder better from the side view below - see how her udder sticks out between her legs? That shows that it is filling with milk (or colostrum) in preparation for calving.
We are watching Hilde closely for any other signs of calving. While she and LBC normally graze and stay together in the pasture, she may go off by herself when she is ready to calve. Other signs could be restlessness, discomfort and swishing her tail more frequently. It helps being around Hilde every day so we know her personality and habits - we are ready!
I'll keep you posted and let you know when we have a calf!
Do you have a family milk cow or other farm animals - we would love to hear your experiences!