A few more cattle tails (tales).
I have become a little lazy about typing some of the things that happen on the ranch. The three following stories happened during calving last fall and I have waited so long to write the stories that some of the details are beginning to fade. Nevertheless, I will do my best to recall as much of these calving incidents as I can.
Since I wrote about the uncaring heifer that refused to accept her calf in my last Reality Ranching, here is a story about a heifer who was just the opposite. Alas, I can’t remember the heifer’s number, where is Dalton when you need him, so I will refer to her as Sweetheart.
On my afternoon check I found Sweetheart in the early stages of calving and after a quick look I left her alone in hopes she would soon begin trying to calve in earnest. After thirty minutes have passed, I return to see if Sweetheart has either calved or is at least working hard at delivering a calf. I spy the heifer standing in a corner of the brome field but there is not a baby calf lying at her feet as I had hoped. Since no feet are showing yet I make the assumption that Sweetheart is o.k. and decide to give the heifer another 20 minutes before I check on her again. After the 20 minutes has elapsed I find the heifer in labor but still no feet showing. Sweetheart pushes with all her heart (:)), several times before getting to her feet, walking a short distance and then she lays back down, again pushing with all her might to no avail. I do not like this scenario.
Not wanting to be a distraction to Sweetheart, I retrieve a pair of binoculars, and position myself out of the heifers’ line of sight; I peer through the binoculars to see if the calf’s feet will appear. Paul arrives home, (I don’t remember where he was), while I am spying on the heifer and he joins me. I hand Paul the binoculars and give him the time line on Sweethearts labor. He watches the heifer’s efforts through the binoculars for a few minutes and like me feels that by now the heifer should have had her calf or at the very least, a portion of the calf should be visible.
We prepare the pens and then walk out to where Sweetheart is still laboring with no results. When we approach the heifer rises to her feet and cooperates with us by walking into the lot. Sweetheart shows no fear when we continue herding her into the working pens. We run the heifer up the alley, secure her head in the head gate, and place a halter on her. Paul then opens the head gate and lets Sweetheart into the corner pen. Paul ties the lead rope to one of the panels so we have some control over the heifer. When we need to help a heifer calve, we must do it in an area and manner that allows her to lie down, that’s why we don’t try to pull a calf in the alleyway.
Sweetheart doesn’t put up to much resistance to the halter and Paul is able to determine rather quickly that the calf’s feet are bent at the ankles and are stuck under the rim of the pelvis. Paul is able to straighten the calf’s feet out quickly and once that is done the calf is delivered easily. Thankfully the bull calf is alive but he is weak. We turn Sweetheart loose and she immediately goes to her baby calf and begins to fuss over it, licking and talking to the little creature that caused her so much stress.
After giving the cow and calf a half hour or so we can see that the calf is going to need help to get his first dinner. Again we must run Sweetheart into the alley and she doesn’t seem to mind. Paul guides the baby calf to his mother’s teats where he eagerly nurses but we must help steady him as he doesn’t have the strength to stand on his own. Once the little calf’s belly is bulging with milk, Paul carries him back into the pen and then we let Sweetheart join him. Sweetheart calmly walks out of the head gate, gives the two of us no mind, and walks over to nuzzle her now sated calf. What a difference from our last experience with the heifer that wanted nothing to do with her calf.
Paul and I decide to move the pair into the corner pen that is situated under the cow shed so the calf will be in a more sheltered environment. We load the baby in the Ranger and Sweetheart dutifully follows her mobile calf. Paul deposits the baby calf in the corner of the small pen and Sweetheart steps into the small enclosure like it is something she does every day. We shut the gate on the docile heifer and Paul proclaims “now that is a sweet heifer”. Now you know why I have dubbed her Sweetheart! The calf was on its feet nursing on its own later in the evening so we have a happy ending!
Paul and I are making our morning rounds with the Ranger among the three herds of cows that we check. We are looking at the cows on the upland brome on the Rock place, when we notice a cow lying beneath a tree in the process of giving birth. She has chosen to calve not far from where her herd mates are lounging, so we retreat among the placid cows to wait for the birth of the calf.
The calf’s head and feet are visible so we know it shouldn’t take long for the cow to deliver her baby. I’m not sure which one of us noticed that something was different about the emerging calf but it was quickly corroborated by both of us. This baby calf is red in color not black! Yes, the sire of this calf is a Simmental but he was sold as being homozygous black that means if the bull is used on black cattle the calves should also be black. Hmmm. Although a puzzler the main thing is to get a healthy calf no matter what color the calf’s hide is.
As we watch, the cow gives a few serious heaves and the little calf’s shoulders come into view. It shouldn’t be long now. Wait a minute, the cow is standing up and she turns around as though she has finished calving. Instead of lying back down the cow does another 180 and gravity pulls the calf farther out of its mother. Paul prompts me to take photos although I am aghast at what we know is going to happen. As the cow continues her half circles, looking for her calf that she is sure she has expelled, the baby slips out on its own and hits the ground with a splat. Welcome to the world you poor little creature. Granted, the baby calf was hanging out so far that the distance to the ground wasn’t that far. Amazingly, the soaking wet calf right’s itself immediately and before long the red calf is shaking its head. This is a something we watch for within minutes of a calf’s birth. It means the calf is doing fine and soon will be trying to get to its feet. Momma, tag 024, finally catches up with her calf and begins licking her baby vigorously none the wiser that this calf is a lovely red color and entered the world with a literal lesson about the pull of gravity! Three photos of the red heifer being born follow, be forewarned!
Paul and I leave the two animals alone but return later to ensure that the little calf has nursed and also to give it an ear tag. We discover that it is a heifer calf and I promptly name her Lucy for the redheaded comedian I grew up watching, Lucille Ball.
Paul and I discuss this standing birth and figure that it happens more than we know. We really don’t see our cows actually calving very often. Most calves are just there when we go to check on the herds every morning. In fact, Paul went back to check on a cow this spring and got there just in time to witness this cow deliver her calf while standing too, so who knows how often this happens.
The last calving tale in this trio of stories takes place on the same brome field where Lucy arrived into the world with her resounding thump! Paul and I are counting the cows as we drive among them and find we are one cow short. There are very few places in this field where a cow can hide so we quickly find our missing bovine.
The cow is lying near a small ravine below the water pond. As we drive up to the cow she stands up and we see that she is in trouble! There is one leg of her calf protruding from the cow and to make matters worse it is a back leg. The closest working pen is at our house and we need to get this cow there as quickly as possible.
The first thing we need to do is see if we can contact Randall. We know he is out checking the herds he takes care of on the 4-wheeler. We have to go home and call him on the phone and hope that he is in a spot where he has cell phone service. If not we figure he will see that the call is from us and will get to a place where he can listen to our message.
Sure enough, Randall doesn’t answer his phone but he shows up shortly after we called him. We are in the process of getting the rest of the cows out-of-the-way so the calving cow won’t be tempted to stay with her herd mates. Randall decides to go look at the cow to see what the situation is while we continue to lead the rest of the herd out of the sight of our problem cow.
Soon Randall comes back and asks if the cow we need to get in is number so and so (no I can’t remember her number). “Yes, that’s her” we reply anxiously. There is a big grin on Randall’s face as he informs us that the cow has delivered a big bull calf and it is already trying to get to his feet! I think both Paul and my jaws drop as we splutter out that we can’t believe that cow managed to have a calf when just one leg was showing. How in the world did she manage that? Yes, she is a large bodied, mature cow but still I can’t comprehend how she managed to give birth. The only thing I can figure is that the other leg was right there but perhaps the calf’s hoof was caught on the rim of the pelvic bone. Perhaps the cow managed to exert enough force to pop that hoof loose and the rest of the calf followed easily. We will never really know but we were certainly grateful that we didn’t have to trail the cow to the house and pull her calf.
Even though Randall wasted his time coming up to “help” us, I think it was worth it to him just to see the look of disbelief on our faces when he reported that the cow we thought was in so much trouble had calved! Later, Nancy