The quick and easy, with captions, is in black. The long and detailed (mainly for those who truly wish to be educated), is in purple. Some of these pictures are graphic, please review before having children see them. They will learn where babies come from :)! Pictures can be greatly enlarged by clicking on them.
We read and read and researched all we could before our first calving. Hopefully, our experience will add to your mental experience, and make your first calving more confident as well. I give you, our first calf:
I had quite a day yesterday. So, this morning I woke up late-7:15-sore and tired. Arlis was the same. First order of business, look out the window and count cows. Booger was by herself. Now this is not unheard of, but somehow you just know-like knowing the difference between manmade and organic. So I yelled, “Arlis, Booger’s off by herself, we need to watch her.” Now, I’m not sure he heard me, he’s not very alive in the mornings, and it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s a dream. I don’t know how many times I’ve had an intelligent conversation with him only to hear, “Give me that paint brush!” “What?” “You’re painting the sky the wrong color!” Of course, he never remembers any of this.
This was supposed to be a relaxing day, a day where minimal chores were done. You know, cleaning house and such, no major projects. We were looking forward to putting the ducks out today with the chickens. All that went on hold as I grabbed the binoculars and screamed, “I think this is it, Arlis!” She looked like she had something hanging out. Her vulva has been so swollen lately, it could have been that. I take another look from outside. “I see a head!” At this point my husband actually awoke and said, “So help me, if you’re wrong about this, I’m going to use you for a lawn mower!”
I wasn’t wrong.
It’s nose was hanging out, and its hooves proved it to be in the correct position. For that we were thankful. We have no idea how long she had been in active labor, and she was acting distressed. She was pushing, and there was no movement of the calf’s position Perhaps we should not have intervened, but we did. We thought the calf dead, and therefore, spent our efforts to save the heifer (obviously now a cow). We have Dexters. Dexters are known for easy calving, but she never mooed once! Look on youtube for cows in labor and tell me what we were expecting. She acted like it wasn’t that bad. Dexters are also small. Booger it tiny. She looks like a calf only a few months old. She has short legs. Fargo is the bull (see pictures and captions). He’s actually shorter than Betsy (Booger’s mother), and is long legged. This calf had Fargo’s head. This calf is large. It’s her first, and I think we did the right thing to intervene.
Arlis goes in, and by now, the herd is taking notice.
Betsy is getting closer by now as Booger waddles here and there.
Fargo tries to help:
Arlis runs them off:
At this time, I am needed. Fargo, we believe was trying to help by licking the calf a great deal. That might have actually saved its life by allowing it to breathe. This is a delicate situation, as I am sure you can imagine. Us out there with a bull and a birthing mother…fear had to take a back seat though as we sprung into action. I ran to get the pantyhose (I was told to use them to tie to the legs to pull to avoid damage). I opened the gate and closed cattle alley in the hopes of letting the herd go to the upper field and not get in the way. It worked perfectly. The pantyhose slipped right off, so I grabbed and my hands slipped right off. I grabbed again and pulled hard. Booger ran off. Arlis retrained her and I pulled up to his eyes. That was it, I was pulled out. She had a contraction, and hit Arlis’s rib with her horn. Thank God it was his rib, or we would have forgone the birthing to the ER. My turn, to hold Booger by the neck while Arlis pulled. He got it to the shoulders. I had to run into the house for something, I don’t know what, and as I came out I heard, “It’s alive!”
There was much hooping.
Such a proud father. That black is where his eyes water a lot. We didn’t tag him, he came that way.
That tiny speck in the back is Arlis.
Zoomed in at 4X:
The proud grandcow stands watch.
Arlis yelled for me to come and to bring the camera. I assumed all was over. Nope, still not out completely, and Booger is sitting on it a great deal.
Still only halfway out. It being long legged didn’t help matters.
I grabbed one hoof, Arlis grabbed the other, and together we were able to pull hard enough to get it out. I’m happy with my work out for the day. God was not.
The whole crowd gathered. Dog, cat… Arlis makes another call to tell someone about the calf.
She’s not really licking him off or anything, just laying there trying to survive. We pull him around to her face where she sniffs him a great deal. A few licks were attempted. I took the dog in, and came back out to see her eating the placenta. We thought this occurred much later…hmmm…
Booger eating the afterbirth:
Mom, seriously, you’re going to eat that?
Now, Marcus asked if I had to eat his afterbirth. Arlis explained the difference between people and animals and why it is so crucial for animals to eat it.
Boog’s having a hard time walking. Her hips aren’t working too well, and the calf isn’t getting up. We came back in an hour or two, after taking the ducks out to the chickens, cleaning out the brooder, filling the chicks’ water and feed, etc.
Bear in mind it’s after 10:00 by now, I’m still in boxers, a tank top, and boots. From my boots up is nasty from high grass and other things, and my arms have been in a cow making sure the hind legs were OK. So, Marcus gets a shower, Arlis and I got to wash placenta off up to our elbows and I cooked pancakes and eggs. After breakfast, all clothes were removed, and a great deal of nasty was removed. Now, I have trekked all the way to Booger-who is in a “ravine” on the farthest back area of the lower field-and back at least three times. Time for more.
We take her a bucket of water and check up. She’s leaving the calf and going to the woods b/c the flies are unbearable. Mainly due to all the birthing fluids. Arlis gets to dirty up his next set of clothes and carry the calf to her. She’s upset with him, but grateful. I’ll leave out the rest and simply say that he had to carry it to the barn/shed thingy by the watering tanks. It was slow as we had to wait for Boog to catch up.
Obviously, if your cows aren’t as trusting of you, do NOT try this!!!
Poor little Booger could barely walk, her hips just weren’t working.
They finally settled in the barn (in the shade!), and she got to eat some grass and drink her little heart out. Betsy was brought down from the upper field for when she has her calf (soon). He can’t walk yet. He has tight tendons and walks on his knees, and the first joint. We have read that this is normal, especially for large calves, and will clear up in a few days. We’ll see how that goes. He appears to be nursing and has passed a good poo, so, from what I’ve read, that means he’s getting a good supply of his colostrum. He has to kneel to nurse anyway…
Arlis milked Boog and put it in a bottle. She wasn’t too cooperative, but he got a cup or so. The little guy didn’t want that much, but did drink some. We’re choosing to hope that means he’s gotten enough from momma already.
We hope he’s nursing here, hard to tell with the grass.
That’s Betsy in the back.
They were snuggled up together last time I checked. I’ll keep updating as needed with the “knuckling” (the tight tendons) and health.