>Snoozing in the arm chair in front of the TV waiting for my shift, I somehow woke up at 2am exactly, and made my way to our cowshed to find “Pammy” with the water bag hanging out and the tips of the calf’s fore hoofs just visible.
A relief after Spring’s early presentation on Thursday. Then all we could see was one hoof after continuous pushing and had become very worried that the calf was not positioned correctly. Being newbies we seem to keep expecting the worse!
Our decision to call on our good neighbour Henry (incidentally he produces the best Strawberries in Cornwall and sells them at his gate just a mile south of Pelynt) was absolutely correct. Although Spring was positioned correctly, her mother was not pushing hard enough and we needed Henry’s guidance and experience to help her deliver.
We hoped that this would be our final lesson and the next time we could do it ourselves.
So when Pammy started delivering at 2am, we knew that it was time to put all that observation and advice to the test.
I have to tell you that its not as “ickky” having your hand up a cows behind as you might expect. On a cold night at least your hands warm up quickly swiftly followed by your body from the hard physical effort of providing tension to help the cow when pushing. Although both feet were presenting I could only get the the calving ropes over one foot, and concerned that I was not crossing the feet and head I had to get my hand well inside to identify the head and other foot. After a few minutes of hard work we got the second foot sufficiently exposed to attach the second rope. Sorry no pictures everyone was working, no one to hold the camera this time.
The hardest work was keeping hold of the ropes as my hands and arms were generously lubricated with gel, which had transferred itself to the ropes.
At this point it was simply a case of finding the grip to supplement mother’s pushing with a little extra tension and within a few minutes, as the pictures show the calf was born.
Mother adopted the calf succesfully, but with 40 minutes having passed and the calf still not on its feet we decided a little encouragement was needed. Its fortunate that we handle our animals every day and they have grown to trust us.
> We keep being told that South Devons do most of the work themselves. However this one was not interested in pushing. When only one foot appeared and then disappeared we called in reinforcements – Henry our neighbour.
He located the other foot and we attached the calving ropes.
With a small constant pull applied, the mother got back to pushing and the head appeared. It looks gruesome but this is a very healthy calf – and its a she! A great result as this means we have another breeding “unit”.
Her arrival, not quite spring time, but the first day this year where it felt like spring was near meant that Jacquie christened her Spring.
Mother and daughter are happy. The mother got up pretty swiftly and started licking her calf. Very shortly after the calf started suckling, rather a humourous affair as the instinct to suckle is strong but not recognition as to which end of the mother contains the milk.
Even before we left Trenderway we had been concerned about 403, a cow we nicknamed Mama. She was our first pregnant cow, purchased from the Trewint Herd in calf and calving in October with a lively little bull calf we nicknamed Joe. ( as in Joe Bloggs because he had no name)
Mama had been off colour since last week. We had the vet in on Wednesday and he gave her a 3 day course of antibiotics and an anti inflammatory. She perked up almost immediately and we thought that it was a simple chill. By Sunday she was badly off colour and that evening we called the duty vet out again. Another course of same treatment was prescribed. This time she did not improve and it was strongly suspected that she might have a foriegn body such as a wire in her reticulum. Apparently this is a known problem stemming from the wire in the tyres used to hold down silage clamps, which could have been picked up at any time by the cow. A check with a magnet being introduced into the reticulum on Wednesday ruled that out and the vet more or less said that we should call it a day. We were not willing to give up quite yet, and with the wealth of livestock and veterinary knowledge available from delegates here at PASA we came up with an initial approach.
John, back at base, has been trying to get Mama’s rumen working again with electrolytes and lactobacillus.
Unfortunately, none of this worked and late this morning Mama died.
As one of our neighbours warned us “when you have livestock, you have deadstock” we should just shrug this off, learn the lessons and move on. However its not that easy and all of us have been left saddened by Mama’s death.
Joe will have to be weaned off 6 months early and we will need to learn the lessons from the post mortem.
Welcome to the realities of the natural world – this is farming.
Yesterday was chaos. We stood in a queue for hours in the chaos that was Terminal 5 waiting to talk to a British Airways ticketing agent, hoping that we could get onto the 1705 flight to Philadelphia.
Eventually we made it – and I will blog more about this when I have calmed down. Having stayed last night in Glen Mills with our friends Sarah and Jim, this afternoon we are braving two snow storms to travel 150 miles to Penn State University for the PASA Conference. Should be interesting. At least here the country has not shut down, it takes more than a few inches of snow to shut the American economy.