There’s something special about checking cows at night. Although it may still be bone chillingly cold, the wind has usually gone down. Stars shine brightly over head. The silence surrounds you.Any loud noises would be out of place so you stay quiet too, walking soft footed into the dark.
My pet heifer, Ghost, was getting near calving. I wanted to go check her one last time before going to bed. Walking into the pen the rest of the heifers barely looked at me. I walked among them so often I was nearly part of the herd. Ghost was fine. She came over to sniff my hands and ask for a treat or a scratch then walked with me as I made the round.
One of the heifers had the water bag out. The thin weak light from my flashlight, so blindingly bright in the house, could barely enhance the bright light of the moon. I couldn’t see any feet. The bag didn’t look dry. It wasn’t more than a couple of hours since I had been out here last. There was no reason to think there was any trouble. Except that this was a heifer.
So much for going in and straight to bed.
I stopped to tell my husband that I was going to stay up and check her again, he might as well go ahead and get some sleep. I sat on the couch and got some work done. Finally an hour passed, I had given her time to get some work done so I went back out.
This time two front feet were showing. Both facing the right way. Everything looked good. The goal is always to leave them alone to do it their way. A first baby is hard. I’d give her a bit more time to work on it.
This time I tried to sleep. It was getting late and I was going to be feeling this come morning. After fitful dozing on the couch I decided to go check again. She’d had plenty of time to work at it herself, it was getting to be decision time. It was also about one o’clock in the morning.
She was laying down when I got there. Although there hadn’t been much further progress, I could see the front feet clearly. Those things were huge. There was no way a tiny heifer was going to be able to do this by herself.
I might as well start clearing a path to the barn.
There’s reason the heifers are kept separate and as close to the barn as possible. Much easier to keep an eye on them and bring one in when needed. And it will be needed.
I opened what gates I could. There was a heifer in the front corral who had lost her calf and a twin calf we were trying to adopt on her. I moved them out of the way. Turning lights on in the barn I opened everything needed to run her straight into the chute.
The whole time I tried to decide if I should go wake my husband. At first I thought I might as well get everything ready, then I’ll go get him. Then I thought, I’ll just run her up first then I’ll go get him. Then I found myself running her into the chute and I still hadn’t woken him.
I had seen this done and assisted many times. Even though I’d never had the chance myself, surely I could do it?
I had great faith that if I needed him he would show up at my side. Ever since I first met him he has been there when I needed. God taps him on the shoulder and sends him my way. If I got into trouble I trusted that God would send him to me again. So I proceeded with the heifer.
With a deep breath I prepared myself and dove in to investigate. Nothing could prepare me for the heat and I jerked my hand back. Knowing what to expect I tried again. The calf chains (nylon actually) were awkward and difficult to get securely in place. My first try slipped off as soon as I pulled. The second try worked better. She was helping all she could. I pulled, she strained, we made great progress.
In no time the calf, wet pink tongue sticking out as it coughed up fluids and gasped for air, was hanging by it’s hips. I let it hang there, lungs draining, coming to life.
Then the cow went down. The size of the calf was more than her young narrow hips could take. I couldn’t get her up. I couldn’t get the calf out.
Finally I opened the head catch hoping she would get up if she could get out of the chute.
It worked. She struggled to her feet. I hung onto the calf chains following her out of the chute. Those hips would not give though. Her were giving out as she staggered about. The calf’s were wedged tight. After following her about, trying to balance pulling with keeping her on her feet, the calf slipped free.
Keeping my grip on the chains I kept the calf from smacking into the concrete. The heifer was down again. The calf was alive and breathing, and huge!
The night was warm. I was exhausted. I left them both lay there. She could take care of her own calf when she was rested and able to get up. I wouldn’t be able to move him much anyway. He was too big for me to pick up.
Staggering into the house, my husband scared me half to death standing just inside the door. He was coming to look for me. As always, there watching out for me when I need him and MAD that I hadn’t woken him up to help me.