Down Cow Movement and Care


September 23, 2022 - dairy team

Response when a non-ambulatory or down cow is found:

  1. Immediately find who is trained in down cow care. 

    Don’t wait! Down cows should be treated as an emergency!

    Farm contact: __________________           Herd Veterinarian__________________

  2. Examine the cow: check to see if she is sick or injured. Take the animals’ history into consideration (age, pregnancy, days after calving, metabolic diseases, lameness).

  3. Determine if the cow should be euthanized immediately or moved to a hospital area.

Moving the down cow:

  1. Identify a hospital area where the cow will have deep bedding, shelter from the elements, and will be safe from other animals.
  2. Place a halter with a rope on the cow’s head. Tie the halter to the rear leg of the cow with a quick-release safety knot.

  3. Tie 2 separate ropes to a front leg and a back leg using a quick-release knot.

  4. Use the 2 ropes to roll the cow onto a sled or into a smooth-edged tractor bucket. This will need 2 to 3 people to complete safely.

  5. Move the cow to the identified hospital area.

  6. Never drag a cow.

Care for the Down Cow

  1. Always give the cow access to feed and water and the level they can reach. Check to see if the cow can reach the feed and water at least twice daily.

  2. Provide cow prompt treatment with the consultation of your herd veterinarian and treatment plan.

  3. Lift and roll the cow side to side at least twice daily.

  4. If the cow does not progress, review the euthanasia decision protocol. A timely euthanasia decision should be made to avoid needless suffering.

To contact an expert in your area, visit or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464)


Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at