Skip to main content

How to tell if your house cow is on heat

If you want your cow to continue producing milk, at some stage she’s going to need to have another calf.  Essentially you have two options, either artificial insemination (AI) or a bull. We have tried both. If you’re going to use artificial insemination, talk to your vet a few weeks in advance and arrange with them to have the appropriate semen ready. You will need to call them again on the day your cow is in “standing heat” (explained below) and arrange for a house call. In total this only cost us $100, but we are only 10 km from town, a vet may charge considerably more if they have to travel further. There is no guarantee that artificial insemination will work the first time and you may need several visits to get the timing perfect. When the vet came, he just asked us to lead Bella to her bales, he didn’t need to restrain her any more than we do for milking. I was surprised how good Bella was, considering how much she kicks us when we are trying to milk her, she didn't seem to mind having the vet's hand up her rear end at all!  Here's the full story about Bella and AI.

You will need to learn to recognise the signs that she’s on heat, this will allow you to track her ovulation cycles so you can work out the ideal timing for her to be artificially inseminated or for her to visit the bull. A cow’s cycle will last around 21 days, so after you have noted her coming on heat a few times, you should be able to predict the timing fairly accurately. Our dairy farmer friend says that cows are “moody like women”, and I have to agree, you do see Bella in different moods and when she's on heat she gets particularly short-tempered. A couple of days leading up to standing heat, Bella will bellow at us when she sees us and try to ride the other cattle (including her calf).  When she's in "standing heat" she will stand while the other cattle try to mount her, and this is the ideal time for insemination, by either method.  She will also usually have a swollen vulva and some mucus discharge. After standing heat there is usually a very small amount of blood discharge (which you can often find as a line on her tail). The most important thing is to closely observe your cow and take notes of any changes in behaviour so that you can begin to get an idea of the timing of her cycle.

Here's Bella and Molly when Molly was still a heifer
We were worried that Molly, being a heifer, would be more difficult to artificially inseminate, so we looked for a suitable bull, and we found Donald, the Dexter bull. Dexters are tiny, he was only 1m tall at his hips, but he was big enough to get the job done.  Donald only cost us $300, and he has produced five pregnancies and three calves before his unfortunate demise, so he has earned his keep, but he was extra work and an extra mouth to feed  He broke fences several times to fight with the full sized bull in our neighbour’s paddock (more about keeping a bull on a small farm.). Using a bull is easier than AI because you don’t have to identify heat exactly, he works that out for you. However, you may find that you have little choice in the timing of the pregnancy, as cow and bull will break fences to be together when the time is right. If you don’t have space or inclination to buy a bull, you can often borrow or rent a bull, or take your cow to visit someone else’s bull.

Whichever method you chose to get your cow “in calf”, you will also need to decide what breed of bull (or semen) you want to use. We chose small bulls so that our cows have small calves and (relatively) easy births. You may also choose to use a meat breed if you want to raise the calf for meat, or a dairy breed if you’re hoping for a baby house cow.

Remember how cute Monty was as a calf?
Some helpful information about artificial insemination and heat detection here and here.

How do you tell when your cow is on heat?  Do you use AI or a bull?

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy

Comments

  1. Looks great Liz, I'll be keen for a copy once the Kindle is back in action

    ReplyDelete
  2. I only wish I had a few acres for myself now. I grew up on house cow milk. It was delicious.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

Popular posts from this blog

What to do with eight acres

Behind the scenes of my blog I can see the search terms that led people to find my blog.  It can be quite interesting to look through them occasionally and see what people are looking for.  Most of them involve chicken tractors, but another question that comes up regularly is “what can you do with eight acres?” or “how much land is eight acres?”.  Today I will try to answer this question.

Of course it is a very broad question, there are lots and lots of things you can do with eight acres, but I’m going to assume that you want to live there, feed your family and maybe make a little extra money.  I make that assumption because that’s what I know about, if you want to do something else with your eight acres, you will need to look somewhere else.

If you haven’t chosen your land yet, here a few things to look for.  Focus on the things you can’t change and try to choose the best property you can find in your price range.  Look for clean water in dams, bores or wells, either on the property …

Growing and eating chokos (chayotes)

** Sign up for my weekly email updates here, you will find out more about my garden, soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon....

Cooking chokos (not be confused with another post about cooking chooks) has been the subject of a few questions on my blog lately, so here's some more information for you.
Chokos - also known as Chayote, christophene or christophine, cho-cho, mirliton or merleton, chuchu, Cidra, Guatila, Centinarja, Pipinola, pear squash, vegetable pear, chouchoute, güisquil, Labu Siam, Ishkus or Chowchow, Pataste, Tayota, Sayote - is a vine belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with pumpkins, squash and melons, with the botanical name Sechium edule.


The choko contains a large seed, like a mango, but if you pick them small enough it is soft enough to eat.  If you leave the choko for long enough it will sprout from one end and start to grow a vine.  To grow the choko, just plant the sprouted choko a…

Making tallow soap

Sign up for my weekly email updates here, you will find out more about soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon....
For some reason I've always thought that making soap seemed too hard.  For a start the number of ingredients required was confusing and all the safety warnings about using the alkali put me off.  The worst part for me was that most of the ingredients had to be purchased, and some even imported (palm oil and coconut oil), which never seemed very self-sufficient.  I can definitely see the benefits of using homemade soap instead of mass produced soap (that often contains synthetic fragrance, colour, preservatives, and has had the glycerine removed), but it seemed to me that if I was going to buy all the ingredients I may as well just buy the soap and save myself all the hassle.  For the past several years I have bought homemade soap from various market stalls and websites, and that has suited me just fine.