Ready To Welcome Your Homestead's First Calf? What To Do Now To Ensure You Are Really Ready

Whether you are sharing your homestead with a couple of cows to supply milk and meat or just so your family can enjoy some bovine company, the arrival of a first calf is sure to be a milestone event. Cows, like most other domesticated livestock, typically manage very well on their own when giving birth, but it is still important for homesteaders to make a few preparations to offer them the best possible calving environment. If you are excitedly preparing for the arrival of your homestead's first-born calf, here are some preparations that will help ensure the event will result in a healthy, happy cow and calf. 

Give her some space

The first preparation a homesteader should make when awaiting the arrival of their first calf is to make sure the cow will have a comfortable, quiet space to use when she is in labor. If the weather is mild, a small paddock or pen outfitted with good quality hay, fresh water, and access to loose minerals and salt is a good choice. However, if the weather is extremely cold, windy, rainy, or very hot, it is better to house her inside a roomy comfortable stall or livestock shed while she is in labor and for a day or two after the calf arrives. This gives the cow and calf time to bond before returning them to the pasture, as well as offering the homesteader a better opportunity to watch over the process and offer assistance, if needed. No matter whether the cow is kept inside or allowed to stay outside during the birth, the area should be clean and dry, with fresh bedding. 

Have basic supplies on hand

Even though the goal is always to allow the cow to calve naturally without human intervention, homesteaders still need to be prepared to assist if necessary, as well as do some routine things to ensure a healthy cow and calf. In order to make this possible, homesteaders will want to have some basic supplies on hand well before the calf is due to arrive. These include: 

  • a set of obstetrical chains, to assist the cow in delivering, if necessary
  • iodine solution to dip the new calf's navel to prevent an infection called navel ill from occurring
  • a calf bottle and a packet of powdered bovine colostrum, in case the cow is ill and unable to feed her calf immediately following the birth

It is also very important to have your veterinarian's office and after-hours numbers programmed into your mobile phone so that you can quickly call for assistance, should a problem occur. 

Homesteaders should also schedule a last veterinarian visit for the cow a week or two before the calf is due to arrive. This last pre-calf visit is a good time for homesteaders to ask any questions they may have about the cow's health or their preparations, and allows the veterinarian to perform a last exam to make sure the pregnancy is progressing normally. 

If you have further questions about keeping your animals in good health, reach out to a veterinary clinic like Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic.