Learn More about the Calving Corner

What is “calving”?

calving [kav-iNG, kahv-iNG]  1. the act of giving birth(calve) to a calf: The cow is calving. 2. relating to giving birth to a calf: Welcome to the Calving Corner!


What is the Calving Corner?

The Calving Corner is a live dairy cow birthing center being presented by a partnership of Pennsylvania dairy industry organizations and dairy farm families at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The Calving Corner is a unique opportunity to witness the miracle of life, see cows and newborn calves up close, and learn more about how Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers work hard every day to responsibly care for their animals and be conscientious stewards of the land and environment.


Who are the sponsors and partners of the Calving Corner?

The Calving Corner project is the result of collaborative efforts and financial support by several agricultural and dairy industry organizations with additional grass root support and assistance.  The Pennsylvania Dairyman’s Association, The Center for Dairy Excellence, Professional Dairy Manager of Pennsylvania, Land O’Lakes Foundation, American Dairy Association North East, and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture are key sponsors and/or partners in the Calving Corner project.


Where is the Calving Corner located?

The Calving Corner is located in the Northeast Hall of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex- -near the East Hall where the rabbits and chickens are housed and the North Hall where the beef and/or dairy cattle are located.


When is the Calving Corner open?

The Calving Corner is open to the public during regular Farm Show hours.


How many cows will give birth at Farm Show?

We expect to have 16 cows give birth over the 8 days of Farm Show.


Where are these cows from? Whose cows are they?

Four dairy farm families from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania are sharing their cows with the Calving Corner. The Calving Corner display will feature information on the day’s current host farm.


Who takes care of the cows at Farm Show?

The Calving Corner is staffed by experienced herdsman, night caretaker, college interns and dairy farmer and industry volunteers.  During the day, the host farmer and the Calving Corner’s herdsman are responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of the cows with assistance from interns. During the night, the Calving Corner’s night caretaker will be responsible for caring for the cows with additional support from interns and the herdsman if needed.


What if the cows need medical care?

Experienced veterinarians will be onsite at the Calving Corner to provide medical attention if needed.  Additionally, Farm Show has a veterinarian on staff to support all animals on Farm Show premises.  Our host farmers also plan to call upon their farm’s veterinarian if additional assistance is needed.


How long are cows pregnant?

Cows are pregnant for nine months.


Is it stressful for the cows to be at the Farm Show?

Since the cows are not “at home”, we try to keep the Calving Corner as calm, quiet and as close to their home environment as possible.  Our goal is to keep the cows comfortable and relaxed.  We provide plenty of space, clean fresh bedding, fresh water and fresh feed from their farm.  Fans help to circulate fresh air. By being calm and keeping our voices down, we can help the cows feel more comfortable at Farm Show.


When is the next birth?

We expect two births per day.  Since the process of giving birth is a natural process, the timing of those births is somewhat unpredictable.


How do you know that cow is going to have her calf today?

Our host farms have been planning for 12 months to share their cows with the Calving Corner and closely monitoring their cows.  On the morning of their cows’ arrival to Farm Show, our host farmers will carefully select four cows which they believe are very close to giving birth based on their expected due dates (all cows are at the end of their gestation) and external signs of early labor.  Cows at the Calving Corner will most likely be showing signs of early labor (e.g., restlessness, slight changes in body conformation, reduced feed intake, etc.) in the hours/day before giving birth.


How big are calves at birth?

The black and white cows featured at the Calving Corner are Holsteins, one of the largest breeds of dairy cows.  Holstein calves average 80-100 pounds at birth.


How soon will the calf stand up and walk?

Calves are very determined and generally stand up anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours after birth.


Do cows need assistance when calving?

90% of dairy cattle births do not require assistance.  Cows are closely monitored in the days leading up to and including giving birth. Most farms move cows to a maternity pen for more personalize attention. The goal is for the birthing process to progress naturally. Occasionally, assistance is required. This may be due to the size of the calf, the position of the calf, twins, etc.  Of the 10% of dairy cow births that require assistance, the majority of assistance is provided directly by the farmer.  Less than 5% of dairy cow births need veterinarian assistance.


Why do you separate the calves from the cows?

Separate living quarters helps to ensure the health and safety of the calf.  Most farms will keep the calf with the cow for a few hours to allow the cow to lick the calf. The licking process helps to stimulate the calf and also helps the cow’s uterus to contract after calving.  Once the calf is dry, they are moved for health and safety reasons. Moving the calf to a clean, dry individual or small group pen protects it from harmful pathogens, allows for individualized attention and care, and keeps it safe from the much larger cows.  Cows are herd animals.  The cows stay in their herd of peers and the calves are raised with their herd of peers.


Why are the calves bottle fed?

At birth, calves have underdeveloped immune systems and need the natural antibodies found in colostrum (the cow’s first milk).  Bottle-feeding ensures the calf get the colostrum they need and lets us know how much they consume. To ensure proper calf health and growth continued bottled feeding guarantees that the calf gets the nutrients its needs during the early stages of life.


When will these cows go home?

The cows and their calves will go home shortly after birth so they continue to receive the proper care and nutrition in their home environment.


Are these cows induced to give birth?

For 12 months, our host farms have been planning to share their cows with the Calving Corner.  Every day, these cows have been closely monitored.  On the morning of their cows’ arrival to Farm Show, our host farmers will carefully select four cows based on their expected due dates (all cows are at the end of their gestation period and due to give birth) and external signs of early labor.  Much like the reasons for inducing human birth, the cows may be induced to ensure the health and safety of the cow and calf.


What do cows eat?

Dairy farmers work closely with professional dairy cow nutritionist who carefully formulates a ration (diet) specially designed to meet the nutritional requirements of their cows.  Cows eat almost 100 pounds of feed a day! Cows diets are usually made up of silage (chopped up corn and/or hay plants), hay, grains (corn, wheat, barley), proteins (such as soybean meal), and vitamins and minerals.


Is it true that cows have four stomachs?

Yes, a cow’s stomach has four unique compartments, each with a special function.  The first three compartments or stomachs are quite different from a human’s stomach.  These stomachs allow the cow to digest plants and plant parts that we humans cannot digest.  The cow can then convert them into a nutritious food source for humans.


How many breeds of dairy cattle are there?

There are six breeds of dairy cows: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Milking Shorthorn, and Jersey.  Like dog breeds, each breed of dairy cattle has its own unique traits and appearance.


What do you call male and female dairy animals?

Male dairy cattle are called bulls.  Female dairy cows are called heifers when young and cows as adults.


How does a cow produce milk?

Like all mammals, a cow begins to produce milk once it gives birth.


Do dairy farmers care about their animals?

Yes. Dairy farmers are dedicated to taking good care of their cows and producing high-quality milk. Dairy farmers work closely with veterinarians and professional nutritionists to keep their cows healthy and well-nourished. Nutritious diets, healthy living conditions, and good veterinary care are all essential when it comes to producing safe, wholesome, nutritious milk.


Why would farmers treat a cow with antibiotics?

It is important to realize that dairy cows are not routinely treated with medicine.  However, just like any other animal, an illness may require medicine.  When a veterinarian decides that a cow be treated, the antibiotics are administered according strict FDA guidelines which include withholding milk from sale. When a cow’s milk is “withheld”, she is given special care and attention separate from the rest of milking herd and her milk is disposed of until it tests free of antibiotics.


Why have farms gotten so large?

Like other business owners, many dairy farm families expand their business to improve efficiencies. These improvements ensure safe, high-quality, affordable milk and dairy products. Dairy farms modernize to provide better cow care, improve milk quality, and conserve natural resources. Expanding and modernizing a dairy farm can also allow siblings, children or other family members to join the family business. The USDA estimates the average dairy farm in the US is about 200 cows.

Regardless of their size, all dairy farmers follow strict regulations and best management practices for the health of their families, their cows and their neighbors. While the look of the family farm and the technologies may have changed, the traditional values of caring for the land and animals continue.


Is my milk from local dairy farms?

Yes. As Pennsylvania residents, we are blessed with a plentiful supply of fresh milk and dairy products. Pennsylvania ranks 6th in the nation for milk production and 2nd in the nation for the number of farms.  And, 99 percent of our dairy farms are family owned.  Any milk you buy in Pennsylvania most likely originated from a family owned dairy farm within 100 miles.