Thursday evening my husband went outside to check on a heifer that was working on having a baby. For those of you non-farmers, a heifer is a cow that hasn't had a baby yet. And there are also first-calf heifers, that have had one baby. Once you have had two babies, you're a cow. That is if you actually ARE a cow. Never mind.
So I decided to go brave the cold to take some pictures of the blessed event, and to show all my blogging buddies the miracle of birth, bovine style.
WARNING! IF PICTURES OF LITTLE CALF HOOVES STICKING OUT OF A MAMA COW BOTHER YOU, DO NOT LOOK AT THIS PICTURE.
SERIOUSLY, DON'T LOOK IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY COW BIRTH!!!!!
Yes, those are the front hooves of a baby calf sticking out of the mama cow. This cow had been pushing for a couple of hours and making no progress so, in steps my husband, the wanna-be veterinarian. Now I wish I could show you pictures of my husband, CEO of Down On The Farm, actually pulling the calf. This involves a contraption with a very technical name -- a "calf puller." Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of this because I had to put the camera down and "assist" him. Which means, he puts a rope around the cow, and I hold the rope so he can get behind the cow and pull the calf. By this time the cow is fighting against the rope so hard that she is laying down. The calf puller fits up against the cows hips for leverage. Then he attaches a small chain to each of the front legs of the baby calf. Then hooks the chain to the puller. (This would be SO MUCH EASIER for you to picture if I had a picture. Next time I'll make somebody ELSE be the assistant so I can take pictures!!!) Anyway. After hooking the chains to the baby calf's legs, and the chains to the puller, you begin to "crank" the puller, which pulls first one leg then the other, slowly working the calf out of the mother. I say slowly when, in real life, my husband is cranking about as fast as he can. The actual process once the cranking begins usually takes less than a minute. The calf inches forward a little at a time until it all slips out in one wet, slimy, steaming heap onto the hay.
Now, again, I wish I could show you a picture of this little blessing. But, it was so dark that the pictures I took, didn't take. So you'll have to trust me when I tell you the calf was born alive and well. My husband takes the rope off the cow, takes the chains off the calf's legs, and the mama cow rushes over to begin licking the calf to dry it. And as hard as it is to believe, after all that, within 10 minutes or so the calf shakily stands up, wobbles over to the mama, and begins to nurse. Baby calves need that colostrum, that first milk from their mama. And, especially in this brutally cold weather, they MUST be licked dry by their mama. Otherwise, they won't make it. Baby calves are just SO darn cute!
Mid week we had a cow have twins, right in the midst of the blizzard. Now you may think twins are good -- two babies born equals two babies to sell at weaning time. Not so. Cows don't handle twins very well. It is a rare cow who will let twins nurse. For some reason the cow takes a liking to one calf, and will try to push the other calf away. That is what happened with this cow, so, THAT baby calf is living in my basement. The mama cow didn't even lick it dry so . . . . . . . my husband and the kids loaded the wet calf in the truck, brought it into our basement and rubbed it down with towels then blew it dry with the blow dryer. My husband mixed powdered colostrum and warm water (kind of like powdered baby formula) and has been feeding this baby for a couple of days.
And just so I don't mislead anyone about the realities of living on a farm, I have to tell you what happened on Friday. We had two baby calves born on Friday. Neither one of them made it. It was near zero Friday morning. Bitterly cold. These mamas didn't have their babies in the shed. They had their babies outside in the pasture. We are HOPING that one of these mamas will "adopt" our orphan twin calf. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
So there. I've shared with you just a glimpse of life here at Down On The Farm. Some folks think farm life is "romantic." I say living on a farm is very hard work. Just like anything you do, it has good days, and it has bad days. My husband works all the time. He works days, he works nights, he works weekends and holidays. He works when its blazing hot, and when its bitterly cold. The animals don't take breaks, and neither does he. Baby calves grow into steers and heifers, and selling those animals is our livelihood. So he takes the birth and survival of our baby calves very seriously. Sometimes baby calves are born on nice spring afternoons. And sometimes they are born on very COLD SNOWY Thursday evenings just about suppertime.
Next time I hope my pictures turn out a little better and, yes, there will be a next time! I hope I don't have to be the assistant again. I just want to be the photographer!!!!! And I don't want to lose any more baby calves.