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Book chapter2022

Parental Behavior in Bovines

Lidfors, Lena


After approximately 9 months, cows give birth to one calf. They usually try to separate from the herd if kept outdoors, but this depends on the possibilities to hide. When the calf is born, the cow immediately stands up and starts licking the calf, and this is most intense for the frst hour. During this time, the cow is very protective of her calf and may attack anyone trying to come close to it, especially if the cow is not so used to human handling. The calf tries to stand up and falls in the beginning, but it usually stands about half an hour later. Once standing, the calf searches for the udder, and after approximately 2 h, the calf is suckling the colostrum from the cow’s teats. The calf is born without an immune defense, and it, therefore, needs to suckle enough colostrum from the cow to get protection against infections. If the calf does not succeed in suckling within 4–6  h after birth, the farmer must milk the cow and give the calf at least 2–4 l of colostrum in a teat bottle. If the farmer has frozen colostrum of good quality in the freezer, and it is either diffcult to milk the cow or her colostrum is of too low quality, the frozen colostrum can be warmed up and given to the calf. Beef calves are usually allowed to stay with their mother until they are 6–8 months old, when they are separated from the cow and then weaned. Dairy calves are usually separated from their mother immediately or within a few days after birth and raised by artifcial milk feeding. In the beginning or during the whole milk period (6–12  weeks), they may be kept individually indoors in crates or outdoors in hutches. After weaning, they are usually group housed.


Parturition; Isolation; Maternal licking; Vocalization; Calf behavior; Suckling; Mother-young attachment; Weaning; Cow-calf separation

Published in

Advances in Neurobiology
2022, number: 27, pages: 177-212 Title: Patterns of Parental Behavior : From Animal Science to Comparative Ethology and Neuroscience
ISBN: 978-3-030-97761-0, eISBN: 978-3-030-97762-7Publisher: Springer

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Behavioral Sciences Biology
    Animal and Dairy Science

    Publication identifier


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