Why Do Cows Lay Down?

February 15, 2024

Many farmers have heard the old wives’ tale that cows lying down mean rain is coming. However, this is just a correlation; cows may lie down before rain because it is cooler in the morning and they want to keep their bedding dry, but the cool weather does not necessarily indicate a rain forecast. It is more likely that they are responding to changes in atmospheric pressure or humidity which often precede rain.

During this rest period, the cow might also be ruminating; in fact rumination is one of the primary reasons that cattle lie down. Rumination is the process by which cattle chew and regurgitate their food in order to break down the fibrous plant material and extract nutrients. If a cow can’t get up after lying down for six hours, it is time to consult your veterinarian; this is a sign of a pinched nerve from calving, an infection, or a metabolic imbalance such as calcium or magnesium deficiency.

In addition to lying down for rest and rumination, cattle also lie down in order to give birth. They will position themselves with their front legs folded underneath them and their back legs at an angle to the body in preparation for pushing a calf out.

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