the time when I don't have very much time to devote to the website. We are about two and a half weeks into calving season. That seems hard to believe as I sit here, bleary-eyed and wanting to hit the sack. Unfortunately, I have one more check before bed…then one at 3 AM…then another at 7 AM…and on the cycle goes.
Most days I enjoy calving season. When the weather is nice, the cows are cooperating, and everything is healthy, it is a lot of fun. I actually get quite a few odd jobs done in the shop and around the barn yard. So far, I've (almost) organized the shop, hung a new door on the old garage, built shelves in the barn, tidied up my fencing and lumber supplies, and set some new water tanks in place. Naomi's family was here for Easter, and I was able to spend a good amount of time with them as well.
Then there are other days. Today was almost one of them. The weather was nice, so that was a plus. I had to pull (assist in delivering) two calves today, which is somewhat annoying since they were both AI sired calves – they normally don't require assistance. What was very disheartening was that the first cow did not want her calf. It isn't uncommon for a cow, especially if it is her first calf, to not mother up if it was a stressful delivery. That was the case, so now I have the challenge of trying to convince her otherwise. That's not so bad…except I have two others in the barn already that I'm working on! One of them is a similar case – too much stress at delivery, so the cow isn't interested. The other one lost her calf (it died shortly after birth, at the vet, on Easter morning…more on that later) and I am trying to get her to take (called "grafting") a twin calf born to another cow. This is a difficult task, made more so due to the fact that none of these cows has exhibited the slightest bit of mothering instinct. I will be happy if any of them take, but I'm not terribly optimistic. If a cow has a dead calf, but mothers it (licks it off and moos at it), the chances of grafting another calf on to her are fairly good – especially with the help of some sedatives.
My attitude wasn't the best today after I came in the barn to pull the second calf and realized the first one I pulled wasn't claiming hers. I've been deprived of REM sleep for long enough that I have to work hard to keep a good attitude. So, here's what went right today. We had 11 live calves, which is pretty good considering we have 55 total on the ground. The weather was decent. I was able to take Ella out to tag new calves and she loved it. I thought there was a cow aborting at Dad's but it wasn't (it was the one that aborted yesterday – 110 lb monster that wasn't even term!). I found a pitchfork that I lost last fall, laying in the snow, right next to where I had just driven the pickup.
About the Easter morning trip to the vet. At 1:30 AM, I went out to check on a cow that had been just starting to calve at my last-one-before-going-to-bed check. What I found was a head and one leg coming out. That is a problem, since we need two legs coming for a proper delivery. I put her in the barn and "scrubbed in." I pushed the calf back into the cow far enough to get the other leg coming right, but then I could not get the head to come up into the birth canal. I worked at it for probably half an hour before calling the vet. By now, it is 2:30 AM and I am hooking up the trailer and loading her up. The vet is located in Bowdle, which is a 25 minute drive. During the trailer ride, the cow had laid down and worked some more at it and had pushed the calf's head up into the birth canal herself (the vet said this isn't uncommon). Thankfully, the vet was able to deliver the calf vaginally rather than by c-section. Unfortunately, it was too late. The calf died a couple minutes after delivery. It lived long enough to get about $25 worth of shots though. So, I loaded the cow and calf back into the trailer and got home a little after 4:00 AM. I unloaded the cow, checked the herd, took a shower, and slept for a few hours until church. Yes, I stayed awake for the sermon.
As I have time, I'll try to tell more about what calving season entails around here. Right now, it's time for the last-one-before-going-to-bed check. Here's hoping everyone is bedded down and chewing their cud.
In case you are wondering what the calving process looks like, here's a video that shows how it should go (minus the cow standing up after the head comes out).