Beginning of Calving ’23
It started today. The first calf was born.
We were feeding. One cow wandered off away from the corrals. She was ready. It’s a bit early still, a week or so before they should be going for real. The weather was nice, cool with snow flurries. Which is better than freezing with howling winds.
I was going to bring her into the corrals so we could watcher her better, get her in easier if there were problems. By the time we finished feeding and I got back with the 4wheeler the calf was almost out. No sense in moving her now. Then she was done.
The calf was tiny, no wonder she had him so quick. I made sure he had his head up and she was licking on him, then left them alone.
A child has been home sick all week. She seemed better this morning, but she seemed better yesterday morning and they sent her back home before noon, so we kept her home today.
I went back to check on the calf, he hadn’t moved, hadn’t stood yet. He was going to have to come into the barn. I came back and got the no longer quite so sick child and made her come with me. She could help get the calf in. And be there to call in help if the cow ate me while I tried to help her calf.
We got on the 4wheeler together, drug the sled along behind, and went out to the cow.
I would rather not get my child killed. She had orders to get out of there first if anything happened. On the 4wheeler of course. Get a safe distance, then call for help if anything happens.
Then I went back for the calf. I grabbed a pair of vice-grips from the tool compartment. They were as good a defense as anything. With the sled between me and the cow we met eye to eye as I reached for the calf. She bellered, I tapped her on the nose with the pliers. I grabbed a leg and drug the calf into the sled. He limply slid in. I stepped back and got to the 4wheeler. She sniffed her calf.
It had worked so nicely. We had the calf. I was alive and uninjured. Both good things. We started for the barn.
Pulling the calf behind on a sled is nice because you don’t get covered in filth like you do with a calf draped across your lap. But mostly because the cow can see and smell the calf as it moves along in front of her. That way the cow can follow the calf and they both get to the barn at the same time and you have the mom there to keep with the calf.
She missed the memo somewhere.
She followed sure enough. In full coyote mode. Screaming and stomping she attacked the sled as soon as it moved. One rope broke loose and the sled trailed crookedly with only one attachment remaining. I went faster, maybe it would hold and we could get ahead of her before she killed the calf. She pounced again and the sled broke free. She stood over calf and sled, head high, snorting. My daughter was in tears. The ordeal had scared her terribly. She begged to get out of there, away from the crazy cow.
It wasn’t like we had too many other options. The cow stood over our sled like a lioness over her kill. I wasn’t going to try to get the calf out from under her. We drove back towards the house as I tried to think what we could do. The calf had been cold and was going to die if we didn’t get him warmed up.
We’ll come back with the pickup I told her. You can stay in the cab. For some reason that made her cry harder. Fine, she could stay at the house.
At the house I got my rope, the one Ghost and Rusty usually play with. Today it would be pressed into real work. Pansy jumped in the pickup too. She might as well come along. A dog would either get me killed or distract the cow if I got in trouble. I prefer to be optimistic.
Wincing as I drove over cornstalks in my pickup I got back to the cow. Backed up to the calf. Climbed out the passenger side door, more distance from the cow looking on warily. Climbed into the bed of the pickup with my rope. The calf wasn’t as close as I thought, but I wasn’t going to go through the whole ordeal again. I dropped the rope. Fought with some cornstalks. Gave up on getting two legs. Pulled the slack tight and gave the calf a pull. The one leg gave me enough heft to pull him up to where I could reach down and grab the other leg. The mama wasn’t too upset. She wasn’t hitting the pickup. Just calling nervously. I pulled the calf over the tailgate and eased him into the pickup bed.
Then looked out at the mom.
I could probably hop out and get in one of the doors without her getting me. Or I could climb in through the window. It looked pretty tiny. Shedding my winter coat I decided it was worth the squeeze.
The mom stayed with the sled.
Back at the barn I forced my reluctant child back outside. We wrangled the calf over snow drifts and through buried doors and managed to get him inside. Then we rubbed him down good, got the heater going on him, and went for colostrum. She did a great job of helping out even through her fear and reluctance. She’s never going to want to stay home sick again. School was far preferable to this. But I appreciated the effort, even if it was unwilling.
With the calf out of immediate danger, I went back for the mom. Hooking up to the sled I found a way to convince her to move away from where she last saw her calf. This time she didn’t try to kill it. It would have been nice if she could have refrained earlier. For now they are together in the barn. When, if, the calf is able to stand by himself we will make sure he can nurse. Now it’s time to wait and see what we can do.
And hope the next birth goes more smoothly!