Watching a baby being born is such an incredible experience. That includes watching a baby calf being born. Its not too often that you get to see it. With my luck I make it just as momma is done and licking baby off. But the other day I managed it just right to see this little baldy calf being born!
After having my own babies, I am so impressed with the instincts that these first time heifers have. There are no doctors or nurses or even husbands to help them through it all and (for the most part) they rock it!
We take a lot time to check the cows to make sure that things go right when they deliver their calves. First time mommas have more problems than the seasoned cows, which is why we keep them close to home.
Generally, we know that when a cow has left the herd and is acting a little antsy, it is probably in labor (that’s how I feel too…). We know for sure that she is calving when we can see a water bubble and the feet sticking out. At this point the calf should be born within the next hour or two and if its not, its time to jump in and help.
Seeing those feet coming out is a good indicator of how things are going. If the toes are pointing up its good news. If they’re not, it means that calf is coming backwards and you’ve got some work to do. The cow might be at this stage for a while because she is working to push the shoulders and head through. But once they do come, gravity helps out and the rest calf quickly comes.
A momma’s instincts kick in fast once that baby has hit the ground. The cow is quick to get up to start licking and cleaning her new little baby. The mom side of me thinks that those licks are part momma loves! The calf’s instincts kick in fast too because as soon as it can, it will stand up and look to start nursing. That first bit of milk (colostrum) is SUPER important because it contains nutrients and antibodies that will help give energy and a strong immunity.
If all of this has gone down without a hitch you can pat yourself on the back and leave them for a while.
… things don’t always go the right way. When we talk about calving there is always a lot of “if-s” and “should-s” and “generally-s” and “usually-s” because we plan on there being problems once in a while. Murphy has a permanent residence here at the ranch…
The first thing to do (after we manage to get the mamma to the maternity pen) once we realize a cow needs help is to figure out exactly what is going on. We face a whole variety of issues like one leg being stuck back, the head being turned the wrong way, the back feet or bum coming first, or the baby being too big for a first time heifer to have alone. The figuring is the easy part. Getting the calf in right position is the tricky part. I mean, you have The Rancher pushing the calf in, grabbing that one leg to get it in just the right place all while momma is having contractions and pushing on the already stuck calf. And there is only room for one hand to do the work. Yep… kinda tricky!
When the calf is finally in the right position the cowboys put some chains around the legs and connect it to a sort of jack. Its brilliantly name “The Calf Puller”… With some steady pulling the baby is able to come much easier. And Ta Da! A calf is born!
Congratulations, its a bull!