Sunday, June 12, 2011

0 for 3

It's calving time here at the farm, so for several weeks now we've examined the rear ends of our cows at every opportunity since there are often observable signs of impending birth before a new baby drops. One of the most obvious leading indicators is a swollen udder, "bagging" as the parlance goes, but this is not a time specific marker. In our experience thus far it is more of a shot across the bow that a calf will be arriving in the following weeks, and doesn't afford a particular moment to prepare for. Of our three bred animals I carried the most concern about the heifer we call Vona (though her registered name is Cinders). Heifers are female bovines that have not yet given birth, after birth of a calf a heifer transforms into a cow. Never having experienced birth before, heifers sometimes have a hard go of it and don't know what to do for the calf once it drops. I hoped that Vona would calve during daylight hours so we'd be around to help if needed. Thankfully this is precisely how things worked out.

At something of a distance six days ago I spotted her dancing around during the middle of the afternoon and when she spun I saw what must have been a waterbag hanging out. She lay down and we gave her a few minutes to do her thing before approaching as Vona is flighty and high-strung. I heard a blat or two and then couldn't resist going over to meet the new calf, and it's a good thing I did. She gave birth to a bull calf, and he was pretty well hooded by the amniotic sac. She was licking at it tentatively and occasionally, and might have cleared the membrane from his face eventually, but it would have been a near thing. A little air was leaking under one side of the membrane, but he was struggling in his new efforts to breathe. So I eased myself in and cleared the membrane from his face and neck and then rubbed him vigorously. Vona then finally decided that licking him was in fact a good idea and took to nuzzling and tonguing him more definately. Less than one hour after I first spotted the waterbag emerging, Gonzo was on his feet tottering toward Vona's udder.

I'm really glad Vona is fine and we have a healthy little calf out of the whole ordeal. Since we're building a herd we were all hoping for a heifer calf, Gonzo's birth marks the third calf born here and the third bull calf. Garth actually came up with his name a week or two prior to his arrival as a sort of joke, because Vona is so excitable and crazy we thought any bull from her should be named accordingly. It's early yet, but as a final ironic twist, his personality so far seems much more in line with his very laid back, easy going sire's attitude. We have two more chances for heifer calves this year. Here's hoping that we don't go 0 for 4.


P.S. I wrote the above post on Sunday when I was lounging for the few hours I take off during the regular week. Since then we've had another baby born - a heifer calf to Juno (registered as Mabel). Ebon's owner names his daughters after poisonous plants (e.g. Lilyvale, Datura, etc), and we liked that tradition so we're calling the new one, Henbane. It is appropriate on two levels as it is a noxious plant, and Juno hates our chickens...

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