It’s that time of year again – when a text or a call that says ‘I need a hand’ always puts me slightly on edge.
Calves are actually much more sensible than humans in the way they are born, more sensible than other animals too. They usually come out singly so they don’t have any siblings there with multiple limbs to entangle them! They usually come out in an elongated line which is quite remarkable really- front hooves first with their nose lying on the top of their straightened legs, followed by head, shoulders, body and finally the back legs, – all one fairly swift moment before landing in a crumpled leggy heap on the ground. Once they’ve been out an hour or two and are walking around on their shaky legs, you tend to wonder how they ever fit in there and got out!
Occasionally though, a calf decides, at some stage in the pregnancy, to lie the wrong way and then it becomes too big to turn around. It has to be born with the back legs coming first. What’s wrong with that, you might ask, surely as long as the legs are coming out, all will be fine?
Not necessarily. A calf’s bum is a lot bigger than its nose and it’s the back of the bum that is ramming against its poor mother! If it is a big calf, there’s a danger that the calf’s hips might get wedged and might cause a slight delay to the birth. Once the birth has progressed that far, the umbilical cord will have broken so there’s no source of oxygen going to the calf. Because the nose isn’t coming out first but is still inside the womb, ?there is a danger the calf will die.
Brian wanting a hand usually means that the calf is either a big ‘un or is coming backwards. We take it calmly and steadily but it still kills us if we lose a calf. It’s not just for financial reasons either. It’s just horrible to see a life fade away in front of you or just as bad if you fail to revive one. Resuscitation can work – rubbing the lungs, tickling its nose with straw and blowing into its mouth sometimes usually has positive results but sometimes, it doesn’t. Even though you tell yourself that human babies die in hospitals with the best care in the world, you still beat yourself up for a few hours when you lose one. Getting down on your knees to blow into a wet calf’s mouth doesn’t taste the best either!
For our second birth of the year, the mother was one of the smallest heifers in the herd, not quite two years old and having her first calf. The calf wasn’t overly big but was coming backwards. She was born quickly enough but she still required her nose being tickled with straw, being lifted up over the gate so her head hung downwards and her lungs could be rubbed to help her start breathing properly. After a minute, it was clear all was well.
We’re having a good starting to #calving15. Five heifers and a cow have given birth with six beautiful heifer calves, two of which are from sexed semen. Kate has been busy thinking of names. The little one that came backwards is called Viola, and the others are Harriet, Juliet, Bella, Arabella and Victoria. We usually name a few distinctive ones – either distinctive because of their personality or their markings but we seem to be trying to give them all names this year! We’ll see how it goes as I am useless at remembering names.
We’re always envious of those who have dry enough farms to calve outside and to let their cows straight out to grass after calving but this year the ground is fairly hard with the recent frosts so while one heifer is still indoors with her baby calf, the other five went out to grass. It was a dark morning but the sun came out later! The forecast is pretty good so if the rain stays off, they should be able to stay out. We let out 46 yearling steers and 50 yearling heifers yesterday too.
Oh, and when Brian tells me that I need gloves – I know it really won’t be pretty!
Hope the calving is going well for you too – we have about 90 to calve in the next 3 weeks so it is going to be busy!