It has been a busy and eventful weekend here at Garrendenny. Brian knew that a cow expecting twins and in calf to a Belgian blue AI sire was due. She has been groaning for the last month and was of a considerable size so he was guessing there were going to be twin bulls in there.
He was pretty tired on Friday night and they were fairly tangled up inside her so at midnight he decided to phone for the vet. The vet managed to sort them quite quickly and two bulls were delivered, Brian surprised that they looked so Friesian. The vet checked her and lo and behold, there was a third calf in there – a Belgian Blue heifer.
Triplets in bovines are very rare. Crazy Moos recently posted about a California cow giving birth to quadruplet heifers (what a bonus as they will all be fertile – if there had been one male within the quad, the females would almost certainly have been infertile, ‘a freemartin’, due to the transfer of testosterone within the womb). Check out his post for the chances of a cow having triplets or quads.
It is the first set of triplets that my father could ever remember happening on the farm. As it happened, the guy who does our scanning called yesterday and we were teasing him about getting it wrong (he had predicted twins for her), he said he had only ever witnessed one set of triplet heifers in all his years of scanning and doing AI for farmers.
We went to bed at about 2 am, tired but happy that all three calves were well. Brian having worked out that the triplets must have different fathers, he had served the dam with a Belgian Blue straw and then as it was getting late in the season, had put the bull we used for ‘cleaning up’ to her just in case she hadn’t gone in calf to the AI so the bulls take after their Friesian father and the heifer after her Belgian Blue sire.
I got up at 5:30 to check on Megan, her udder had really filled up the day before so we knew it wouldn’t be long. As I entered the first shed, I could hear a tiny newborn cry but only one. Guessing she wouldn’t be delivering all of them on her own, I quickened my pace and opened the door, wondering what I would see in front of me. There was Katie wedged against the opposite wall, looking across at a tiny kid as though wondering where had this little alien come out of. The kid was dry, having being licked and was between Megan and Becky, Becky clearly having bonded too and become a very protective aunt. We knew there were more in her so I went to get Brian. I was anxious too as I knew this kid had been born for some time.
We lost a goat last year, we should have called the vet earlier as she actually needed a caesarean section but by the time we’d got the large kid that was the problem out of her, the damage had been done. We were both upset about it and were not looking forward to this delivery and as Brian put in his hand and found a tangle of legs, his worst fears were realised – now how to work out which head and body belonged to which set of legs!
Katie came over to have a look and jumped up on the trough and generally got in the way. Brian gave her a swipe to get rid of her and whatever way she jumped, her hoof caught my cheek. Between the shock, the pain and the stress, the tears just started flooding down my cheeks. We laughed about it once all the kids were born but neither of us felt too good at that particular moment.
To cut a long story short, she had a total of 5 kids. I was tweeting with Boyne Valley Blue yesterday who have 300 goats and the most they ever had was the occasional set of quadruplets so I’m guessing goat quins are very rare, although perhaps not as rare as triplet calves. One by one we pulled them out and checked their airflow. After each one, Brian put his hand in again and found another. And yes, he did check for a sixth – just in case! She had 3 boys and 2 girls and they have been named – Titan, Snickers, Mars, Rose and Tulip. Will named the boys and Kate the girls. The first, Titan, was hardy and strong and we left him with Megan and put the other four under an infra red lamp, feeding them with a little of Megan’s colostrum.
I had to go to a meeting yesterday afternoon and was nearly finished when Brian rang to tell me he thought Titan’s leg was broken and indeed it was. We had put Becky and Katie out to get them out of the way but Becky was being maternal and returned so perhaps one of them jumped on him or something. So it was 10 o’clock last night when we were splinting his leg (apparently it should take about 2 weeks to heal so we’re hoping we splinted it alright) and as there aren’t any empty sheds as all full with calves, we barricaded Becky and Katie into a part of a shed off the milking parlour.
We wondered if Megan would have enough milk for all five. I bottle fed the four yesterday and this morning I was wondering if I could get one or two of the others to suckle her but ended up milking her and feeding them a mixture of it with some milk for a freshly calved cow.
I’m feeling a little like I did when I first had Will – exhausted, not sure what is night or day and my life revolving around feeds as they take a while to drink. Within a few days though, I’ll be needing four hands as they’ll be knocking me over when they see me coming with bottles of milk!
All in all, a busy and exciting weekend and a first for Garrendenny – triplet calves and quintuplet kids made for a record-breaking night. By the way, the calves are named Beautiful, Fudge and Jive!
Update: 1pm on Sunday. I was just finishing off this blog post when Brian rang me to say that Becky was kidding. She kidded on her own and I gave her a helping hand to finish off. Just one large female kid, all well. She hasn’t kidded for about 4 years and is probably entering menopause so am happy to have one female from her. We got Snickers and put some of the afterbirth on him so he has suckled and Becky has licked him so hopefully the adoption will work. Becky is a difficult goat to milk (teats like leather and doesn’t let the milk down too easily) so I’d be delighted if two of them suckle her.
Our last set of twin calves have just been born too – a bull and a heifer. Now, a relaxing Sunday afternoon I hope!