Friday, March 5, 2010

The Birth

The only way I could agree to getting into the cow business was to figure out how we could do it without eating any of them. So I bought Purebred Red Angus cows as breeding stock. The bull calves we will sell as bulls, and, like Ferdinand, they will have happy lives in green, flowery pastures. The heifer calves we will keep as future moms. So there. No one has to eat anybody. I'm not a vegetarian, I just don't think I could bring myself to eat one of my pets!

So, Jean's delivery went like the text book (which, with a little verbal advice from local farmers, was all I had to go on). She had a contraction when I was feeding her at 6:00 pm, so I checked on her at 8:00 and her water had broken. She settled down for some serious pushing about 8:30, and then soon after the front feet showed up in the right position. Phew! Meanwhile, I was extremely stressed about dealing with a problem birth on my own. A friend of mine happens to be a vet tech...I texted her from the barn and she was not in town! Horrors! But she kindly gave me text support through the whole procedure! Thank you Sue!

The little guy "Red" was born just after 10:00. Jean didn't get up, so we rushed over (me and my two anony-mouses) and made sure he got his first breath. Then we urged Jean up and retreated to give her time to bond. She was neat to watch when she turned and caught scent of the calf. Her eyes went wide and she sniffed him all over and kind of paced on the spot, being close enough to lick him but not so close she'd step on him.

Thirty minutes later, the drama started. The book said the calf has to get up within thirty minutes to drink. Has to. Or he'll die, is what I thought it meant. It turns out it's not quite that urgent. But at thirty minutes, he'd tried and failed to get up, so we were in there trying, without getting in the way of Jean, to get him up and to her udder. He was about eighty-five pounds and I couldn't lift him with him still wet and slimy. We struggled and smeared until finally I was worried about interfering with the bonding, so we backed off, scared out of our minds. The little guy was shivering, and seemed so weak, and now we'd probably messed up Jean and she'd reject him. Without a warm tummy-full of milk, I figured it was straight down hill from there.

I texted my friend, and when she didn't reply instantly, I cracked and called the vet. She said he had twelve hours to get that first drink in him. She said leave him be and see what happens. Within ten minutes he was up and heading for the udder. Who knew! So as he guzzled, and milk drooled out of his mouth, and Jean mooed contentedly, we stared at our slimy clothes and shook our heads.

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