Wanted: Protective Mother Cows


Numerous studies show that selecting beef cattle for a calm temperament improves weight gain and meat quality. Over the years, however, several ranchers have reported an increase in poor mothering among their cows. Perhaps this is the result of intensive selection during the last decade for calmer, more docile cows.

Colorado State University (CSU) graduate student Cornelia Flörcke recently spent three months on a Red Angus ranch in Colorado to learn more about how different cows protect their newborn calves. She shares her findings in this video.

Discuss this Video 7

Elaine Steigman (not verified)
on Jun 20, 2012

Wow, very interesting. I have to go check the hair whorl on my cows heads. I have heard that is a good way to check for a good breeding sire as well.

on Jun 20, 2012

It's the cranky ol' b@#$hs that always bring in the heavy calves

Lindycat (not verified)
on Jun 20, 2012

Blah, blah, blah.

The hair whorl won't keep off a pack of wolves.

mike graves (not verified)
on Jun 21, 2012

We raise grey and red Brahmans, and woe unto the dog which foolishly roams our calves.
And, since town has moved to our countryside, I shoot dogs more often than i used to.

Brooke Aitken (not verified)
on Jun 21, 2012

It depends on what you want your cows to protect their calves from. In my Master's research, we tried to relate the temperament of the cattle with how they responded to people and predators after calving, and found basically no relationship. Some cattle are completely fine with having people handle their calves, or are concerned but not dangerous but will still show protective behaviour when confronted with a predator. On my own farm (and I have heard from many other people as well) cows will respond very differently towards people and dogs or predators. They can tell the difference, and I for one will take the calm cow that is easy to handle all year and protects her calf from a predator over one that might mow anything near it down.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 22, 2012

Mothers can be as protective as they want but, when it comes to wolves it takes more then one mother to protect a calf. the problem is not breedig selection but, relationship selection. Big ranchers bring in and take out cows based on profit. They need to start making selection based on behavior. Keep good strong daughters who's mothers are good mothers. Keep female calves that are friends or groups.

I realize that the bottom line is profit but if your a cattle rancher you need to pay more attention to cow/calf relationship, cow/cow relationships and calf/calf relationships.

Why? because my herd does not have trouble with wolves. the wolves cross my property all the time but, they leave the cows alone. People keep asking why that is? the answer: I keep heefers based on their mothers instincts. I keep heefers that are close friends. I don't bring in more then a handful of new cows at a time and when I do it is not very often. My cows protect the calves as a herd just like muskoxen. there are not very many preditors that want to see 50 cows running at them bawling mad. think about it. profit is lost with every calf killed by preditors.

Temple Grandin (not verified)
on Jun 25, 2012

In this study we found differences within the Red Angus Breed on calf defensive behaviors. Cows with a hair whorl slightly above the eye were more vigilant and oriented towards a strange vehicle sooner. Some cows would call the calf by vocalizing and others did not call. There were a few cows with no protective behaviors which simply walked away as the strange vehicle approached, leaving the calf behind. More complete information will be in the July 2012 issue of BEEF. The bottom line is, if you over select for calmness you must make sure you do not lose mothering behavior.

Please or Register to post comments.

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×