A Calf is Born

Understanding the birth process of a cow will instill more confidence on your part when the big day of calving arrives. Cows have been having calves for years without human help. Interfere with calving as little as possible. The normal gestation period, or length of pregnancy, for a cow is nine months. When a cow gets ready to calve she will pass a cloudy mucus which will eventually turn into a bloody discharge. She may or may not lie down. For example, one of our previous cows was eating one day and plop out popped the calf. But more commonly it will lie down and will be in labor, or straining, between 30 minutes to one hour.
It is best if the cow can calve out in the pasture in the clean fresh air and surroundings. Most cows who are ready to calve will like to seclude themselves when giving birth. This is a normal process and does not indicate anything is wrong.
Most cows deliver their calves with a front presentation meaning that the front hooves come out first. In the front presentation the calf’s front legs are stretched out and its head is between them. You will notice the legs protruding from the cow about one foot and then you will begin to see the head and nose first. The cow will strain a few more times and then the rest of the calf will slide out. Usually the after birth or the placenta will come out as well. If the placenta does not come out immediately do not worry it will come out within a few hours after calving. If the placenta is still hanging from the vulva of the cow the next day do not try to remove it. It will shed naturally.
Once the calf is out the cow will clean off her calf by licking it. Her licking increases the calf’s circulation and encourages him to breathe.  Once the calf is licked he will get up and begin to look for the cow’s udder so that he can have his first feeding.


  1. Tho' I'm not as brave as you in watching the whole process, it is fascinating. My DH and son had to help birth one last spring. It was late and I had to hold a flashlight. That's hard to do when you're trying not to look. But since the after care is just as important I did help rub it down with hay. I just found your blog through your post on bees.


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