Calving: 5 Signs You’re About to Miss Supper

We’re heavy into calving season here in north Idaho. The time of year when normal things like eating supper and being warm are thrown out the window, and when no plans can be made because you’re that person driving around staring like a deranged fool at all your momma cows.

I love it.

But it’s always helpful to know what you’re looking for and to be able to spot the cows that will calve in the next 12 hours versus the ones that will calve in the next 12 days.

5 Signs You’re About To Miss Supper

  1. You see feet. I was going to put this last, but why not start with the most obvious? Feet means labor, labor means a calf is on its way into this world.
  2. A switching tail. When a cow switches her tail, it can be a sign of pending calf-dom. Kicking at her belly, turning in circles, and other signs of discomfort fall into this category too. For those who don’t calve in winter/early spring, a switching tail is also probably related to flies. Just a scientific thought.
  3. Separation from the herd. No one likes to have a kid with all their friends watching, and cows are no exception. Cattle are herd animals, and a single cow off by herself is an indication she may be ready to add to your numbers.
  4. Vulva expanded. When the vulva is expanded, the cow’s body is preparing for calving. I’ve heard it called “springing” as the cow’s vulva will shake, rattle, and roll when she walks – springing up and down. I prefer to call it “loosy-goosy on the back end”, because it’s more fun. Other physical signs include mucus and the ligaments next to the tail head softening.
  5. “Bagging” up. The udder of the cow will enlarge as she gets closer to calving. Some bag up over night; others bag up weeks in advance. How’s that for a window of time to be watching closer? The teats enlarging is an indication as well.

As always in the cattle business, there are no hard and fast rules. Some cows may display one, a few, or all of the above indicators in her own sweet time. Although if she never comes through on number one, then you’ve got a problem! Knowing your herd and the routines of individual cows are a big advantage at this time of year.

What calving signs do you look for?


  1. We as well live in N.Idaho.. Helpful and funny too.. thank you

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