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Treatment Before Calving

Category: History and Breeds

Little alteration needs to be made in the management of the cow for the
first seven months of pregnancy; except that, as she has not only to
yield milk for the profit of the farmer, but to nourish the growing
foetus within, she should be well, yet not too luxuriantly, fed. The
half-starved cow will not adequately discharge this double duty, nor
provide sufficient nutriment for the calf when it has dropped; while the
cow in high condition will be dangerously disposed to inflammation and
fever, when, at the time of parturition, she is otherwise so
susceptible of the power of every stimulus. If the season and the
convenience of the farmer will allow, she will be better at pasture, at
least for some hours each day than when confined altogether to the

At a somewhat uncertain period before she calves, there will be a new
secretion of milk for the expected little one; and under the notion of
somewhat recruiting her strength, in order better to enable her to
discharge her new duty--but more from the uniform testimony of
experience that there is danger of local inflammation, general fever,
garget in the udder, and puerperal fever, if the new milk descends while
the old milk continues to flow--it has been usual to let the cow go
dry for some period before parturition. Farmers and breeders have been
strangely divided as to the length of this period. It must be decided by
circumstances. A cow in good condition may be milked for a much longer
period than a poor one. Her abundance of food renders a period of
respite almost unnecessary; and all that needs to be taken care of, is
that the old milk should be fairly gone before the new milk springs. In
such a cow, while there is danger of inflammation from the sudden rush
of new milk into a bag already occupied, there is almost always
considerable danger of indurations and tumors in the teats from the
habit of secretion being too long suspended. The emaciated and
over-milked beast, however, must rest a while before she can again
advantageously discharge the duties of a mother.

If the period of pregnancy were of equal length at all times and in all
cows, the one that has been well fed might be milked until within a
fortnight or three weeks of parturition, while a holiday of two months
should be granted to the poorer beast; but as there is much
irregularity about the time of gestation, it may be prudent to take a
month or five Weeks, as the average period.

The process of parturition is necessarily one that is accompanied with a
great deal of febrile excitement; and, therefore, when it nearly
approaches, not only should a little care be taken to lessen the
quantity of food, and to remove that which is of a stimulating action,
but a mild dose of physic, and a bleeding regulated by the condition of
the animal, will be very proper precautionary measures.

A moderately open state of the bowels is necessary at the period of
parturition in the cow. During the whole time of pregnancy her enormous
stomach sufficiently presses upon and confines the womb; and that
pressure may be productive of injurious and fatal consequences, if at
this period the rumen is suffered to be distended by innutritious food,
or the manyplus takes on that hardened state to which it is occasionally
subject. Breeders have been sadly negligent in this respect.

The springing of the udder, or the rapid enlargement of it from the
renewed secretion of milk--the enlargement of the external parts of the
bearing (the former, as has been said by some, in old cows, and the
latter in young ones)--the appearance of a glaring discharge from the
bearing--the evident dropping of the belly, with the appearance of
leanness and narrowness between the shape and the udder--a degree of
uneasiness and fidgetiness--moaning occasionally--accelerated
respiration--all these symptoms will announce that the time of calving
is not far off. The cow should be brought near home, and put in some
quiet, sheltered place. In cold or stormy weather she should be housed.
Her uneasiness will rapidly increase--she will be continually getting up
and lying down--her tail will begin to be elevated and the commencement
of the labor-pains will soon be evident.

In most cases the parturition will be natural and easy, and the less the
cow is disturbed or meddled with, the better. She will do better without
help than with it; but she should be watched, in order to see that no
difficulty occurs which may require aid and attention. In cases of
difficult parturition the aid of a skillful veterinary surgeon may be

Next: Feeding And Management

Previous: Pregnancy

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