Animal signs

What are animal signs? A cow gives signals all the time about her welfare and health. She does this by behaviour, attitude, body language and body condition. You can use these cow signs to optimize your results. Start by looking carefully, searching for causes, and translating the answers into positive action to benefit your cows and ultimately your dairy business. Train yourself to observe, evaluate, and find solutions.

Temperature

A cow should have a temperature of 38 to 39°C. Cold ears might indicate milk fever or blood circulation problems.

Legs

Heel erosion or skinned heels are mainly caused by problems with bedding or bedding materials, incorrectly adjusted barn equipment and/or hoof infection.

Ruminating

A cow should ruminate for seven to ten hours per day, ruminating 40 to 70 times on a cud. Taking less time indicates inadequate rations.

Rumen

The rumen should be filled with feed. The left side of the stomach should protrude. If you press your fist into the rumen it should contract firmly about 10 to 12 times within five minutes.

Alert

A healthy cow looks alert and powerful, with a glossy skin and a full stomach.

Neck

A swollen neck is mainly caused by a feed fence being too low or incorrectly adjusted barn equipment.

Hooves

Healthy cows stand straight and still while eating. Tipping or walking with lame gait are signs of poor hoof health, from bad rations, poor floors or lack of hoof treatment.

Udder

To assess udder health, look carefully at the teats after milking. Good teats are flexible and naturally coloured. Poor udder health can be caused by hygiene problems, poor milking equipment installation or inadequate feed rations.

Manure

Should not be too thick or thin and should never have undigested particles in it.

Breathing

Normal breathing ranges from 10 to 30 breaths a minute for a cow. Faster breathing indicates heat stress or pain and fever.

Source: Hulsen, Jan, Cow Signals, VetVice.

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