Dairy At Glance
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Care Of Pregnant Dairy Animals

Care Of Pregnant Dairy Animals

R K Sharma and Harish Verma

(Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Ludhiana)



A good breeding cow should bear calves at annual intervals regularly. This will ensure better returns from dairy enterprise. This will be possible only if the animal is taken care of well during pregnancy. Various tips for better care of animals during pregnancy are described below:

Care Of Animals At The Time Of Service

When the cow or heifer permits other animals to mount her while she remains standing, the vulva becomes slightly swollen, and its colour changes from red to light pink and there is sticky mucus discharge from the vulva, it means that that animal is in heat. It is the time to get her serviced, either naturally or artificially. The date of service should immediately be noted down. The animal in question should be watched for possible heat signs after 21 days of service. If there is any sign of oestrus, she should be serviced again. Otherwise, she has 50% chance for pregnancy. Heat signs should again be carefully observed after 42 days. If any sign is observed, she should be impregnated again, otherwise there will be 70% chance for the animal to be pregnant. All the impregnated animals should be submitted for pregnancy diagnosis after 60 days of service. This will help us confirm the pregnancy status of the animal. Verifying pregnancy in a cow allows for proper veterinary care thereafter. Cows and buffaloes have special requirements for nutrition and care during pregnancy. Rectal palpation offers an immediate diagnostic result. Accuracy can reach as high as 95 percent, but depends on the practitioner's experience.

If the animal is found to be non-pregnant, the reasons for the animal remaining in anoestrous condition have to be ascertained and the requisite treatment should be instituted accordingly. On the other hand, when the animal is found to be pregnant, extra care should be taken according to the month of the gestation period.

Care Of Pregnant Animals

About two months before the expected date of calving, each animal in milk has to be dried off. This will help the animal to re-manufacture the milk producing machinery (milk alveoli) in the udder. Each animal has to be fed at least two kilograms of balanced concentrate ration in addition to sufficient green fodder to meet the energy, protein and mineral requirements. If green fodder is not available in sufficient quantity, the level of concentrate ration has to be increased accordingly. The concentrate ration that is to be fed to dried pregnant animal must contain at least three percent good quality mineral mixture to meet the extra needs of calcium and phosphorus. To further increase the availability of calcium and phosphorus to the fast growing foetus, each animal should be administered slow-intravenously one liter of calcium borogluconate and magnesium hypophosphite one month prior to the expected day of delivery. Along with it, 5 milliliters of Chelmin® (Vesper, Bangalore) should be got injected subcutaneously to improve the zinc, copper and manganese availability to the foetus. About a fortnight before delivery, following activities have to be undertaken:

  1. All the animals approaching calving should be housed separately in a clean shed covered with paddy straw on the floor. The animals in the loose housing system should be stanchioned during this period.
  2. Each animal should receive 750 grams of cooked gruel (of wheat, maize, millet, sorghum or oats). This will improve the energy reserves of the animal before calving. It will allow the animal to withstand the negative energy balance ensuing after delivery, thereby preventing development of ketotic signs. 
  3. The calcium present in the concentrate ration should be withdrawn, instead about 10-15 grams of magnesium oxide should be fed daily till delivery. Two doses of DICIROL® powder (Cadila Pharmaceuticals, Ahmedabad), 5 grams each should be given orally at weekly interval during period of gruel feeding. This will prevent development of milk fever after calving.

Care Of Animals At The Time Of Calving

The presence of care taker is must at the time of delivery. The day of delivery should be estimated beforehand. The cows usually take 280 days (9 months) while buffaloes need 310 days (10 months) from the day of service to deliver the calf. The exact time of delivery can be known from the signs of approaching delivery.

Before calving, the pelvic ligaments get softened. The tail head sinks due to release of estrogens and relaxin. Cervix also softens and begins secreting stringy mucus. Vulva becomes swollen. Udder swells with first milk (colostrums) and due to edema. Foetus moves into proper position i.e. head facing the cervix & resting on front knees.

At the time of parturition, cervix dilates. Certain hormones induce coordinated and regular uterine contractions. Foetus is pushed against cervix. The outer foetal bag (allanto-chorion) dilates the cervix. This foetal bag may break at this time. Pressure of foetus in cervix stimulates oxytocin release and there are reflex contractions of abdominal muscles. Due to these contractions, the animal feels intense pain and becomes restless. Strong uterine contractions ensue due to synergistic actions of various hormones (high estrogen, PGF2α and oxytocin) leading to strong abdominal muscle contractions. The inner bag (amnion) ruptures and the mucin lubricates vagina and vestibule. Foetus passes out through vagina and vestibule. Uterine contractions still continue after the calf comes out of uterus. Blood flow to the cotyledon villi got reduced. This causes shrinkage of villi, thus, separating cotyledon from the caruncle. Contractions push the placenta out.

A period of 10-12 hr may elapse from the commencement of restlessness until the calf is born. If some trouble is suspected it is better for the unskilled farmer to seek veterinary assistance.

Care Of Animal Following Calving:

Following actions should be taken following delivery:

  1. Supply luke-warm drinking water to dam.
  2. The calf should be allowed to suckle the mother immediately after birth. This helps expel the placenta or afterbirth.
  3. Prevent the cow from eating after-birth.
  4. Any of the following mixtures can be given to the dam immediately after calving. They act as a uterine tonic, help cleanse the uterus, expel the placenta and dispel gas from the rumen of the mother.
  1. Take the following ingredients:

Saunf                      (Foeniculum vulgare)                           Fennel or Aniseeds

Ajwain    (Trachyspermum copticum)                                Bishop’s Weed or Carom Seeds

Methe                    (Trigonella caerulea)                            Blue Fenugreek

Soa                                                                                          Dill Seeds

Kuru                        (Picrorhiza kurroa)

Kala jeera              (Bunium persicum)                               Black Cumin

Dhaula Jeera        (Carum carvi)                                        Caraway Seeds


Bari Elaichi             (Amomum subulatum)        Greater or Black Cardamom


Sundh                     (Zingiber officinale)                              Dried Ginger

Bhoori Mirch         (Piper nigrum)                                       Gray pepper

Pound together 10 g each of these ingredients with 100 g of brown sugar. Mix the powder into the gruel and cook. Feed the whole amount to the mother cow twice a day for 1 week after birth.

  1. Take grains like: Mahua (Finger millet, Eleusine coracana) seeds, Jawar (Sorghum, Sorghum vulgare) seeds, Bajra (Millet, Pennisetum typhoideum) seeds, Kanak (Wheat, Triticum aestivum) or Chawal (Rice, Oryza sativa).

Cook 1 kg of any of these grains with twice as much water to make gruel (porridge). Then take the following ingredients: Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) seeds, Bishop's weed (Trachyspermum ami) seeds, Fennel (Foen            iculum vulgare) seeds, Black pepper (Piper nigrum) seeds, Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) seeds and Asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida) gum. Pound together 10 g of each of these ingredients with 50 g of brown sugar. Mix the powder into the gruel and cook. Feed the whole amount to the mother cow twice a day for 1 week after birth.

  1. Mix 3 teaspoons of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) seeds with 1 kg of cereal and ½ kg of brown sugar. Cook together with 2 litres of water. Give this amount once a day to milking cattle.
  2. Boil 500 g of linseed (Linum usitatissimum) seeds in 1-2 litres of water until half the water remains. Drench 500 ml of the liquid. Repeat once a day for 3 days. This helps the mother gain weight after calving.

If the pregnant animals are taken care of as described above, they will definitely remain healthy throughout the next lactation and will provide you maximum milk as per their genetic potential.