Thursday, July 31, 2014

Springing in a Dairy Cow

Every Lady on our farm gets at least 60 days of dry period before calving and starting a new lactation. Dry period means that she is not milked, basically like maternity leave. She gets to relax all day and basically do what she wants, while her body focuses on her baby and preparing for a new lactation. This is custom practice in the dairy industry to allow cows at least 60 days before they calve again. Our Ladies enjoy their dry period on a separate pasture.
Brooklyn, Angel & Blackberry in the dry cow lot
A cows gestation period is the same as humans, 9 months. At least two weeks before their due date we bring them in off the pasture and out of the dry cow group into our Springer Barn. This is a special bedded pack pen, for  the sole purpose of calving. We like to have them in here so we can watch for signs of calving and keep an eye on how they are springing.

Springing, defines a cow that is starting to make the changes that mean calving is close. We don't put a lot of weight on the due date, as a cow can very easily and safely calve within 2  weeks of either direction of her due date. And our herd of Guernseys seems to always be on the later side. We instead closely watch her body, attitude and appetite for changes and then any signs that their might be a problem. A cow that is really Springing will have swelling in her udder, you can tell her milk is coming on. A very loose, floppy and swollen vulva. Their might be a slight change in her manure, to a smoother, lighter side. And clear, mucousy discharge might be present. Also another little fun fact, the term Springer or Springing, meaning a cow is close to calving, came from the ideal calving period being in the spring.A farmer would be wanting to see these changes on his cow in the Spring.

1. Jesusita just came in off the dry cow pasture a week ago. Her due date is August 2nd, obviously she is going to go past that date. This is a typical look for a dry cow. No obvious bagging up, tight unswollen vulva. Everything looks great on this dry cow.

2. Charity is a Springer heifer, meaning her first time calving, so not the best comparison, but it's what I had in the barn right now. You can see her udder is starting to change a bit, showing a little filling. Her vulva is a little soft and swollen. Her due date is August 6th, she is showing signs of being closer to calving, probably still a week or so.

3. Jenelle calved 7 hours after this picture was taken, she was 14 days past her due date. Excuse the udder, there is definitely more swelling here then we like to see and will be working closely with her to get this down. We tend to see a little more udder swelling in the summer months. But this is a good representation, her vulva is obviously loose, floppy and slightly swollen. And her udder is very bagged up, filled and swollen.

Each cow is different, but this is the typical progression for a dairy cow that is springing. I'll try to snap some progression pictures of Jesusita as she springs and gets closer to calving, so you can see the progression of one cow.