Chestnut was the last of our mama cows to calve this spring. We missed when she had been bred, and months ago I thought she would be the first to deliver because she was so large and pregnant. But after all the other calves were born, she was still getting bigger and bigger. Her udder swelled more and more. Every day we would run up to see if she had her calf yet, and be disappointed. But this morning, the calf was finally here! A huge girl calf. After 3 bull calves, this is her first heifer, and she is an exceptionally large and plump calf. Now I can see why poor Chestnut looked so big! This new calf is about the same size as Lichen’s first calf, born around Easter.
And speaking of little Roselle, Lichen’s calf, she is in the plump and sassy stage, kicking up her heels and tossing her head around playfully as she skips around. She has been SO excited to have more calves to play with! All the older calves are separated for weaning, and the grown-up cows are boring and don’t play.
We have never had any problems with calving, but a few weeks ago when Sappho calved, we had to actually help her give birth. Usually the calves are on the ground or nursing before we can even make it up there to see them.
We arrived late, because we had dinner at my parents’ house for my birthday. When we returned, it was clear that Sappho was finally in labor. She was off by herself, and little hooves were starting to poke out. We left her alone to labor for awhile. After an hour or so, we went up with headlamps to check on her.
The calf was still not born, and she was laboring hard in the moonlight. The nose was just poking out, and we could see the calf was presenting normally. The calf was moving, twitching its feet slightly. We left her for another half hour. There had been no progress, and Sappho was lying on her side to labor. She looked tired and unhappy. She is normally very unfriendly and won’t let me get close to her, but she was so tired and miserable that I was able to feel the baby’s face. In the light of the headlamp I saw it’s tongue hanging out, as if it had been strangled. Worried, I felt it’s face, opened an eye and moved a foot around. It barely twitched, and I was afraid it was dead already. Quickly we each grabbed a hoof and pulled. Sappho bellowed and stood up as the calf slid out. It was alive, but weak.
I rubbed its back to help it get started, and it lifted its head and breathed in little snorts through the mucus. Sappho had moved away. We tried to coax her over to the calf, but she turned away from it. The calf was shivering badly. The night was cool, but not cold, but it was soaking wet and Sappho seemed to be uninterested in it. We carried it over to her, and she again walked away. It was 1:30 am. I brought up towels, and started to rub the calf down. It was a bull calf, and he looked up at me in the moonlight and starlight, with huge, beautiful eyes. He had cute white markings on his legs, head and tail. I was worried about him. He was so cold, and Sappho was not interested in mothering him. Visions of bottle feeding a calf and chasing Sappho trying to milk her flashed before my mind.
After a few minutes, she started to walk around and sniff at things on the ground. We moved away from the calf, and encouraged her to go over towards him. She smelled him, and mooed softly in the sweet, low voice they speak to their babies. He raised his head, and she began licking him. We sighed with relief and went to bed.
In the morning he was up and had been nursing. He is doing well, but his brows were a little swollen at first from being squeezed out. He is thin, but has a large frame, and she is a slender cow. They have bonded well. She is very motherly and protective of him. I think she just needed a moment to recover after he was pulled.