Downer cow management

Downer cows are often poorly managed resulting in poorer outcomes and lower survival rates.

Correct management has a huge influence on prognosis so it is essential that these cows are managed correctly.

Once a cow has been down for 24 hours they are classified as a 'chronic downer cow' and are subject to getting a number of secondary injuries/conditions such as muscle breakdown and traumatic injuries associated with struggle (e.g dislocated hips).

The most important aspect of managing downer cows is identifying them rapidly and treating them from the start.

 

Preparing your downer cow pen:

  • Prior to calving it is a good idea to set up a dedicated downer cow pen. This should consist of a small, restricted area which preferably is sheltered and lined with a thick layer of bedding/straw. The area should not be too big and should aim to prevent the cow from struggling and making attempts to get up.

Managing downer cows:

  • Once a cow has been classified as a 'downer cow' it is important to move her into a dedicated management area. This can either be done using hip lifters and a belly strap or otherwise by rolling her and securing her in the bucket of a tractor.
  • Once in a well secured, padded area she should be provided with fresh water and feed.
  • She should be lifted 2-3 times daily. Lifting should be performed by securing hip clamps and lifting until she is able to weight bear on the feet. She should not be lifted so her feet are off the ground. Lifting should only be done for a maximum of fifteen minutes or until she shows signs of discomfort (shaking etc). She should then be gently lowered back down.
  • If the cow is well tempered you can also attempt to massage the leg muscles during lifting to reduce muscle breakdown.