As we enter the beginning of spring and leave the colder parts of winter behind, it’s now time to shift our focus to another part of the farm. This time of year brings about a busy time as we prepare for the baby animals being born across the farm. When dealing with larger animals, you will play a vital role in calving and lambing.
Below are just a few things to watch out for with your livestock if you’re expecting new baby animals on the farm.
A fast growing udder
One sign that labor is near is a fast growing udder. Sometimes this is difficult to see because you will notice her udder grow months before she is due. However, you will notice that right before labor, a large swell happens that seems that her bag cannot get any bigger.
Springing in the back end
Getting up close and personal with your animal you will notice changes in her vulva. A few days before birth, the vulva will start to relax and loosen. When labor is near, you also might notice it bounce a bit when she walks because of how relaxed it is.
With the body getting ready to calve, the animal’s pelvic ligaments are softening to prepare for a calf to move through the birth canal. If her tail head seems to be more pronounced than usual, this could be a clue that labor will start soon. However, if the cow is naturally fatter, it could be difficult to see this change to the tail head. The best time to notice the change is around 12 hours before birth.
Another clue that labor will start soon is if you notice a discharge from the cow. Some cows will have slimy discharge that starts one or even two weeks before calving. Every animal is different though, so sometimes there could be little to no discharge close to calving.
Odd or restless behavior
Just as humans do, cows know what is happening with their body and will show you signs that they are not feeling quite right. They might hang back from the other cows or even appear to zone out but then go right back to normal. This odd behavior should start 12-24 hours before labor. Once labor has really progressed, you will notice them getting up and down several times and pawing and pacing around.
If you notice any of these signs happening with your animals, it’s important to take note of when each stage is happening. This will help you prepare for the birthing process. Ultimately, once you start to see the water bag, you know the birthing process has begun. This process is relatively the same for sheep and goats as well. At any point during this process if you know your animal is in distress, don't be afraid to get help. Caring for livestock is a huge job and sometimes you need help.
We would love to see pictures of the baby animals on your farm. Please share with us in the comments below!