Behaviour of Cattle

About Cattle

Cattle (colloquially cows) are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. Cattle are raised as livestock for meat, as dairy animals for milk and other dairy products, and as draft animals (oxen or bullocks) (pulling carts, plows and the like). Other products include leather and dung for manure or fuel. In some regions, such as parts of India, cattle have significant religious meaning.

Fact about cattle

Cattle, as individuals or as a herd, possess many unique traits, the most distinctive being their social disposition. They are extremely social animals and rely heavily on "safety in numbers" — herds can form with up to 300 animals. Each animal can recognize more than 100 individuals and will closely bond to some herd members, while carefully avoiding others. While the bond between mothers and daughters is particularly strong, calves also maintain lifelong relationships with their peers.


Cows are mature females who have, usually through reproduction, developed prominent hips and other adult physical characteristics.
(They are social animals and form strong bonds with their families and friends that can last their entire lives. The bond between a cow and her calf is especially powerful. If a mother cow is caught on the opposite side of a fence from her calf, she will become alarmed, agitated and call frantically. If they remain separated, she will stay by the fence through blizzards, hunger, and thirst, waiting to be reunited with her baby. This bond continues even after the calf is fully grown).

Heifers are immature females who have not yet calved or developed the mature characteristics of a cow.

Bullock is a young, uncastrated male who has begun to display secondary sexual characteristics.

Steer / ox is a castrated male bovine.

Bull is a mature, uncastrated male.

Calf: young one of cow.


Cows "moo" to each other fairly frequently, allowing them to maintain contact even when they cannot see each other. But when they can see each other, they also communicate through a series of different body positions and some facial expressions.

An ox is a mature bovine which has learned to respond appropriately to a teamster's signals. These signals are given by verbal commands or by noise (whip cracks). Verbal commands vary according to dialect and local tradition. Usually the commands are:

  • » "Back up": go backwards
  • » "Gee": turn right
  • » "Get up": walk forward
  • » "Haw": turn left
  • » "Whoa": stop

Oxen can pull harder and longer than horses. Though not as fast as horses, they are less prone to injury because they are more sure-footed.


Cattle have almost panoramic vision, which allows them to watch for predators or humans. They can see in color, except for red. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can detect scents more than six miles away. Cattle are ruminant herbivores and will swallow vegetation whole, then later masticate their "cud" (chew their partially digested food).


Learning behaviour

Cattle will learn from each other's mistakes. If an individual is shocked by an electric fence, others in the herd will become alarmed and avoid it. If a herd is confined by an electric fence, only 30% will ever be shocked. Cattle enjoy swimming and running in the moonlight, as they have been shown to remain active for a longer period between their two sleep sessions when the moon is full.

Lifespan of cattle

20-30 years naturally. Dairy cattle are usually slaughter at around 5 years, beef cattle around 18 months and veal calves at four to five months old

Reproductive behavior

Age at Puberty (months) 15 (10-24)
Onset of Puberty6-18 (months)
Optimum breeding age 14 – 22 (months)
Sexual Season Polyestrus
Estrous cycle 21 (14 -29) (days)
Estrus 18(12 – 30) (hours)
Metestrus 3 – 5 (days)
Dioestrus 13 (days)
Proestrus 3 (days)
Ovulation type 14 -18 (hours)
Ovulation time 12 – 18 after end of estrus
Pregnancy 277 – 300( days)
Calving interval 365-380 days
Avg. days to 1st observed heat Less than 40 days
% cows in heat by 60 days post calving Greater than 90
Avg. days open to 1st breeding 50-60 days
Avg. days open to conception 85-100 days
Services/conception 1.5-1.7

First service conception rate

A) replacements 65-70%
B) producing females 55-60%
% breeding intervals between 18-24 days Greater than 85%
% cows open greater than 120 days Less than 10%
Dry period length 45-60 days
Avg. age at 1st calving* 24 months
Avg. age at 1st breeding* 15 months
% cows pregnant less than or equal to 3 Al/services 90%
% cows pregnant on examination 80-85%
Abortion rate Less than 5%
Cull rate for infertility Less than 10%

Heat detection in Cow

  • » Standing to be mounted
  • » Mounting other cows
  • » Increased urination
  • » Isolation from the herd
  • » Mucus discharge
  • » Chin resting and rubbing
  • » Muddy flanks and ruffled tail head
  • » Vulval edema and hyperemia
  • » Bellowing, restlessness and trailing
  • » Decreased feed intake and milk yield.

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