Managing down cows

Down cows need to be treated to a high standard to maximise their chance of recovery.

Poor nursing makes cows very susceptible to secondary damage, which will delay or prevent their recovery.

A ‘down’ cow is any cow that is recumbent (lying down on her chest or side) and unable to stand unassisted. Cows may become recumbent for many reasons, and at any stage of their lactation cycle, although it most commonly occurs around calving time.


Begin treatment with the appropriate medications promptly to maximise the cow’s chances of a quick recovery.

If the cow is recumbent with a condition where she is unlikely to recover on the same day, she should be moved to a suitable nursing area.

Nursing the down cow

Nursing of a down cow should only be undertaken if the cow has a reasonable chance of recovery and a competent stockperson is on hand.

Good nursing can be labour intensive and time consuming. If you require any professional advice on the management of a down cow contact your veterinarian.

Watch this short video on how to care for a down cow with some basic nursing rules from Dr. Phil Poulton.

Download the Down cow decision-making tree

Download the How to manage a down cow fact sheet

For more information on the methods around getting a down cow on her feet, visit Dairy Australia's Cow Welfare page.

Download the 'How to manage a down cow' fact sheet.