cows; weaning; cattle; calves

Cattle production: Why are some of my cows dry after calving?

Question: I have a cattle ranch and I don’t see all the cattle every day. Sometimes a cow comes in having calved, but with no milk whatsoever, and no reason for the dry udder. I then have to rear the calves and don’t always have enough frozen colostrum for them. Is there anything I can inject to stimulate milk production? Is dry colostrum in fact available on the market?

It is rare to have a number of beef cows that don’t produce any milk after calving. In most of these cases there would have been damage to the udder or teats when the animal was young.

Large multi-host ticks can cause severe damage to the developing udder and can cause a blockage of the teats. In young heifers it is not easy to see the udder and teats and if they are not specifically inspected or treated with a dipping compound on a weekly basis during the summer this can be the main cause of the problem.

A single tick bite can cause enough damage to block the teat canal and wouldn’t be visible until the cow calves for the first time.

If this condition occurs in cows that have calved and produced milk normally in the past, there might be a rare genetic influence that must be selected against.

Unfortunately there is no injection that can stimulate milk production in an unproductive udder. There is also no commercially available colostrum in our country of which I am aware.


  • To investigate this problem further, I would advise you to ask your local veterinarian to conduct pregnancy examinations and keep cows with the same pregnancy status together in a group.
  • Ensure that there are calving camps available where cows close to calving can be observed on a daily basis.
  • Also do condition scoring on heavily pregnant animals to include or exclude nutritional status as a possible cause.
  • If you lose more than 5 calves a year because of this problem it would be worthwhile for a vet to conduct a more detailed investigation of the cause.

Also read:
Cattle production: A comprehensive introduction to ticks and tick-borne diseases
A cow need special feeding attention before and after calving
Cattle production: Why would cows not calve every year?

Livestock production: Ensuring your cows get pregnant again after calving

  • This article was written by Dr. Danie Odendaal and first appeared in Farming SA.

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