In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at signs and phases of calving and tell you more about the importance of regular monitoring around the calving period. The detection of the onset of calving by the smaXtec system has many advantages, as we will explain in the following.
A cow is pregnant for about 280 days. Estrogen levels rise two to three weeks before calving. This already leads to various physiological changes:
Further signs occur within 48 hours before the onset of calving:
Calving can basically be divided into five phases:
In this stage of the calving the signs are not yet very strong, but in their entirety suggestive. Signs of birth include sunken pelvic ligaments, glossy teats, dripping milk and red vulva with tough mucus
During this period, the inner cervix opens, and the water and mucous membranes enter the cervix. The first light contractions and disturbances can be observed. In this phase, it is important to leave the cow alone so as not to interrupt the natural process.
In this phase, the birth canal expands. Calving is a continuous process that can take as long as 1 to 3 hours (from the point of bubble rupture of the membranes to the head breaking through) for cows and even 4 to 6 hours for heifers.
This phase begins with the head or pelvis moving through the mother’s vulva, which takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
In the afterbirth phase, the remaining amniotic fluid and the afterbirth come away. If this does not happen within 12 hours, one speaks of post-natal problems.  Post-natal problems can lead to inflammation and to fertility disorders.
Ideally, a cow can give birth to her calf without help. Unfortunately, an ideal case does not always occur. If complications occur during calving, both the suckler cow and the calf can suffer serious consequences – from post-natal problems and uterine infections to weak calves and death of cow and calf. Only a regulated and systematic birth process can lay the foundation for a good start for the mother cow as well as the calf, as well as the success of the business. 
Continuous and regular monitoring of the calving process is of great importance in enabling the farmer to closely follow the stages of calving and quickly identify and correct any signs of complications.
If the farmer recognizes clear signs of the onset of calving, the cow should be placed in a separate calving box and be observed as inconspicuously as possible. Here it is important to look after the cow – checks should be performed every 30 minutes during the day and every 3 to 4 hours at night.
If several cows on a farm are due to calve around the same time, this means an enormous amount of work – both day and night.
In this critical phase, the smaXtec system is your ideal companion! Different sources, e.g. Streyl et al., 2011, Gasteiner et al., 2016, show that decreasing temperature in the near-to-birth period means that calving is going to start soon. smaXtec boluses continuously measure the body temperature of the animals. The system sends a calving alert up to 36 hours before calving if the animal is in the so-called calving window (14 days before or after the expected calving date).
A study by the University of Göttingen has shown that most of the alerts are issued between 6 and 20 hours before calving. 
This allows farmers to take all necessary measures to ensure a problem-free birth at an early stage. They can take their animals to a separate calving box, administer calcium boli to prevent milk fever, and assist the cow as needed at the right moment.
By taking the right action at the right time, it is possible to reduce stillbirth rates, the number of post-natal problems and uterine infections, as well as shorten the time between calvings.
Only a calving without complications allows calves a trouble-free start in life and allows the cow to have a healthy and powerful start to lactation.  One calf per year and cow means a satisfactory business result. The calf loss rate should be less than 5 %. To avoid such losses, attention needs to be paid to a few basic aspects.
As shown in the example curve, calving detection is based on the significant temperature drop (blue curve) before calving. As mentioned above, the alarm is generated up to 36 hours before the actual calving.
In the example graph, you can see that a notification was sent to the farmer at 11:00 am on September 18th. Thanks to early detection, it was possible for the farmer to separate the mother cow and bring her into a calving box, take all necessary precautions and thus guarantee a trouble-free birth. A few hours later the cow gave birth to a healthy calf. The continuous temperature measurement can quickly detect signs of paresis (milk fever). Reduced body temperature and decreased activity are typical signs of metabolic disease.
You also want to benefit from the calving detection and the other functions of the smaXtec system? Contact us here!
 Bongardt, Judith: Validierung des smaXtec-Systems zur Brunsterkennung, Universität Göttingen
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