So, it’s day 4 and next on the list is ‘Dropped in the Slacks’… If this just sounds like gibberish to you, you’re not alone! I remember wondering where on earth the ‘slacks’ were on a cow and how they can be dropped. So, let’s decode it a bit.
Some farming jargon makes perfect sense, like ‘Bagging Up’- when the cow’s udder begins to fill up with milk, one of the first signs of impending birth that can sometimes be seen weeks in advance. Or ‘Springing’, when her vulva begins to relax, swell and get pinker, though some people use that term for the udder filling up as well, but it works for both. But then, you get curveballs like ‘Dropped in the Slacks’… Which gets even more confusing when you realise some call it ‘Dropped Bones’…
Firstly, let’s cover a couple of points of the cow
As you run your eyes along a cow’s body, from her shoulders to her tail, the first pointy bones you come to after her stomach are called the Hook Bones. Then there’s a flat part, then you come to another set of pointy bones, either side of her tail head, these are called the Pin Bones.
There are ligaments that connect the pin bones to the spine, attaching to it just before the tail starts. Normally, those ligaments feel hard and tight, and can look like a taught line between the tail head and pin bones. But when the cow is about 12 to 24 hours from giving birth, those ligaments start to relax so the birth canal can expand to make room for the calf.
That hard line sinks down, making the pin bones appear to drop down and away from one another and the tail head look higher and wobbly. It can be easier to feel the ligaments slacken and drop away than it is to see. Once the ligaments are fully relaxed, or she’s ‘dropped in her slacks’, calving is imminent.
It takes time to train your eye for what to look for- I haven’t mastered it yet, but it’s apparently, nearly impossible to see in over-fat cows so I’m using that as my excuse, seeing as ours tend to be rather on the round side! Each year, I try feel a few for the change instead, which is definitely easier than using sight alone, but it still takes practice to know what you’re feeling for.
It’s really clear after they’ve calved, then a few days later, the ligaments visibly tighten up again- isn’t it amazing how their bodies are built to instinctively make room for the calf! I’m guessing it’ll be something to do with what hormones are being released, but that’s well beyond my comprehension!