If you are new to keeping cattle on your farm or homestead, it helps to have prior knowledge of their breeding and reproductive cycles. Learning about a cow’s reproductive cycle is of particular importance if you want to raise dairy cattle since they cannot produce milk without first giving birth.
Cows normally have a gestation period of around nine months. The length of pregnancy can vary slightly between different cow breeds, though only by a week or two, and pregnancy tends to be slightly longer in cows that are carrying male (bull) calves as opposed to heifer (female) calves.
As a beginner farmer or cattle rancher, learning as much as you can about cow pregnancy can help you budget their feed, health check-ups, and general care, as well as preparing to accommodate the newborn calves. We’ve answered some common queries on cow gestation including the pregnancy diet, how to check for pregnancy, plus advice on medication and vaccination safety.
How Often Can Cows Get Pregnant?
As the average dairy cow in the U.S. has a lifespan of about 4 to 6 years, this often works out to one pregnancy every 12-14 months or once every 400 days on average.
How Long After Having a Calf Can a Cow Get Pregnant?
Though many farmers aim to have their cows fall pregnant as soon as 1 month after giving birth, several factors play a part in delaying their next pregnancy.
Firstly, older dams (cows of birthing age) can be weaker and require a longer resting period to restore their strength, and first-time mothers and those with a difficult pregnancy or traumatic birth will require a longer postpartum interval to recover.
Pregnancy and the after-effects of birthing a calf can leave some cows with weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and other health conditions, which can take postpartum intervals to 2 months and longer in some cases.
Can Cows Get Pregnant While Nursing?
Yes, though a pregnant cow should not continue nursing (feeding their calf) when they are long into their pregnancy, as they will need to preserve their energy in order to grow the new calf inside them and prepare to produce colostrum (milk) for her soon-to-be born-calf. Calves should be weaned off their mother’s milk by the time they are 6-8 months old.
What Age Can Cows Get Pregnant?
Cows can get pregnant once they reach puberty which can be between 8 and 16 months old, depending on their weight and breed.
How Many Times Does a Cow Give Birth?
A healthy cow may typically give birth to 8 to 10 calves in its lifetime, spread across 4 pregnancies. However, in cases where modern birthing innovations such as IVF can lend a helping hand, some cows have been able to give birth more than 50 times in the space of just 6 months, as this experiment in India showcases!
How Do You Check If a Cow is Pregnant?
Rectal palpation is the traditional method for detecting pregnancy as early as 35 days in some cases, and this is carried out by feeling the cow’s uterus and ovaries via their rectal wall.
Ultrasound is another way to check for suspected pregnancy though this is a more costly procedure.
Does a Pregnant Cow Show Signs of Heat?
Though rare, pregnant cows can occasionally exhibit signs that they are in heat and receptive to breeding, though this is thought to be due to the hormonal changes in their bodies as they prepare to give birth or it can be a sign of an ovarian condition. Either way, it’s wise to report ‘heat’ like behavior to your veterinarian to ensure everything is okay.
What to Feed Pregnant Cows?
Give pregnant cows plenty of access to hay and grain for energy and protein. Adding commercial protein supplements can help in the later stages, as can an additive known as Molasses which is packed with much-needed vitamins and iron.
In the last two trimesters of pregnancy (around 14 weeks and onwards), cows often consume 2% of their body weight, so ensure they have plenty of corn, wheat, rye, and oat grain pellets in their daily feed.
Is Ivermectin Safe for Pregnant Cows?
The deworming medication Ivermectin has been known to cause miscarriages in some pregnant cows, so we would advise seeking out alternatives.
Is Oxytetracycline Safe for Pregnant Cows?
The antibiotic oxytetracycline (or LA-200 as it’s also known) is used to treat pneumonia and should be treated with caution in administering to pregnant cows, as treatment in gestating goats and sheep has caused abortion. As there is conflicting evidence about this antibiotic treatment, consult your vet before use.
Is Draxxin Safe for Pregnant Cows?
Draxxin is often administered to treat the bacterial causes of bovine respiratory diseases and is safe for use on pregnant cows. However, use on pregnant cows has been discouraged if they are being raised to produce milk for human consumption, according to the European Medicines Agency.
Is Bovatec Safe for Pregnant Cows?
Yes, the antibiotic Bovatec – used to control the effects of the parasitic infection Coccidiosis – can be safely administered to pregnant cows and will actually help to increase milk production in lactating cows.
Is Covexin 8 Safe for Pregnant Cows?
Yes, this vaccine has been safely approved for pregnant cows, but for the passive protection of their calves, cows should be vaccinated around 2-8 weeks before giving birth.
Is Enrofloxacin Safe for Pregnant Cows?
Enrofloxacin (or Baytril 100 as it’s also known) is not currently considered safe for pregnant cows or cows in general that are aged 20 months and older. This treatment for infections of the respiratory tract can leave behind drug residues in the milk and in birthed calves.
It is therefore not suitable in cows or any cattle that are intended for human consumption. According to the Bayer Healthcare manufacturing company, beef cows that are administered this drug “must not be slaughtered within 28 days from the last treatment.”
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