Signs of Calving

Signs of Calving

Over time we have all developed our own way of determining when a cow may be approaching her time to calve. Some good, some okay, and some of us just get a surprise when we see a new calf. It is important to know what time frame your cows should be calving and which one are about to start the process of birth called parturition. There are several things that we can be on the watch for to help us better narrow down that window of when to expect her to begin parturition.

A common practice used in helping to determine when a cow may calve is by having her palpated. While palpation is typically used to check for pregnancy, it will give an estimate of how old the calf is in the cow, and therefore allow you to know when to expect her to calve. Depending on who conducts the palpation and what information you can provide to them will affect how accurate this is.

Watching the cow’s bag is one of the oldest forms of identifying when she may be getting close to calving. As she approaches calving, the bag will begin filling up preparing itself for milk production. The problem with only watching for the cow to start “bagging” is that each cow will begin at a different time. Some may begin as early as a month out, while others may begin only a week out.

As a cow or heifer approaches her time to go into labor, her vulva (the area just below the tail) will also provide information that can be used. As her time comes to begin parturition, her vulva should begin to swell, and “flop” as she walks. You may also notice a clear fluid being discharged. Both signs are typically seen in the few weeks leading up to the onset of parturition.

Two of the most precise ways to determine when she is going into labor is by watching her behavior, and looking for her pelvic ligaments to relax. Often cattle will seclude themselves from the group, and begin behaving differently than normal. They may begin stretching, looking back toward their abdomen and several other signs normally not seen. The pelvic ligaments, which are around the tail head will begin to loosen showing that her body is preparing to go through parturition. These signs are seen within 24 hours of beginning parturition.

For more information on cattle, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Nacogdoches County at (936) 560-7711, or visit our website at

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