Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A New Arrival.....

For the past few weeks after herd checks, the farm vet has been trying to find time to catch the miracle of a calf being born. This week happened to be that week! This video will kick off our first series: 'The Next Generation'. We will try to show you the stages of life of a dairy heifer as she grows into a mature cow on the dairy and has her own baby.

Every dairy farm has a "closeup" and "maternity" pen. As the names suggest, the closeup pen consists of cows and heifers who are typically within a few weeks of their due date. Most dairies have at least one individual who is dedicated to keep a close eye on these pens. On this dairy his name is Roberto. This is a job that requires a lot of training, skill, patience and care. When he identifies a cow which will soon begin labor, he moves her into the maternity pen so he can monitor her. The maternity pen is kept as clean and comfortable as possible with the tools necessary to assist with the birthing process. If he has any problems he can call the farm vet 24/7 for assistance.

As shown in the video, once the baby has entered the birth canal and strong abdominal contractions have started, the cow should give birth within 3-4 hours. In this situation, after talking to Roberto the farm vet realized this heifer had been pushing for three hours so they decided to examine her. The baby was presenting itself normally but the heifer was struggling to deliver her calf alone. The decision was made to assist with the delivery.

Chains were attached to the babies legs to aid in delivery. Chains are commonly used in this manner as the babies legs are very slippery. Properly applied and used, they cause no harm to the baby or mother whatsoever. After delivery the calf was placed on straw bedding and its umbilicus dipped in iodine to stop any infection. The mom was left to lick her baby clean and dry. The baby will be given two quarts of colostrum (the first milk from the mother, full of energy and antibodies) within six hours of birth. This is extremely important for the calf to grow to be strong and healthy.

This is truly a joyous moment marking the start of new life which is vital to the future of the dairy. It is the start of an exciting life for the new born heifer. She will encounter good and bad times just like me and you! Hopefully, in a few years she will join the herd as an adult.

Next we will follow up at the calf ranch (calf nursery) as the journey continues!


  1. What a nice video! It was fascinating to see another cow helping clean off the calf and the mother tolerating this well, is that common in herds?

    I love the idea of humans being so caring and helpful during the arrival of a new baby, but i will admit, very little would induce me to lick meconium off! lol.

  2. Typically another cow that is helping lick a new-born calf without a calf herself, is probably in the early stages of labor. This is especially true in a maternity pen as shown in the video. The purpose of licking the calf is generally to stimulate the infant.

    However, you raise an important issue. Cows can be extremely protective of their babies. Extreme care should always be taken in a maternity pen to avoid accidents.