Saturday, March 20, 2010

Let the Calves roll in

When we arrived on the ranch only one calf had been born, and a second was born the night we got there. After Ron and Shawn left it wasn't but a few days and we got to experience calving first hand. Kyle of course was an old pro at this because of his work at the dairy farm. In fact it was probably even easy for him because in most cases he did not need to do much more than watch and wait. I on the other hand was a nervous wreck. I knew nothing (still don't know) about calving. The closest simulation I could come up with was the year I lived with some friends who raised horses. I had seen some equine births but for some reason births of the bovine nature seemed entirely foreign to me. I was wide awake every time Kyle got up at night to do a check. Having no idea what to do or think was driving me crazy.

Thankfully a couple days into it I got the chance to see a cow give birth. Kyle woke me early one morning and told me there was a cow calving in the pen outside our living room window.

I was awake immediately. Binoculars in hand I made a perch in the blue arm chair by the window and prayed Colton would not wake yet.

Its difficult to put to words the experience of watching this cow give birth. She seemed calm and concentrated about her work. She laid there and I watched as she pushed, then she'd get up walk a bit, lay back down and go at it again. Soon I could see two front feet. I thought well that's kind of like a horse. Not long after came a nose, neck, shoulders and then all at once she stood up and the rest of the calf slipped out. She immediately greeted her calf who was already wriggling about, trying to figure out what she was to do with all these legs. The new mama licked and fussed over her checking her all out.

Then something very surprising happened. As I was watching her take care of her calf I saw something drop behind the cow. My first thought was, that must have been the afterbirth - but it sure did look heavy? Almost before I finished my thought the mama cow turned around and greeted a second calf. Twins! I called Kyle who was making breakfast, I think? He came to the window and concurred that I was indeed seeing twins.

It was the longest two hours of my life to watch that mama cow try and balance two babies. It was obvious that the first calf was getting the bulk of the attention. I felt my self growing frustrated with the mama cow for neglecting the second calf. Kyle assured me they would be alright. He called Mr. H and let him know we had twins, and that was that for awhile.

Later that day, mama was still having trouble mastering her new babies. So, Kyle and Mr. H decided best to put them in the barn so they could bond without trying to find each other in a large pen. The first calf you could see was nice and healthy. The second was healthy but slower, but I suppose being born on your head would make for a rocket scientist. Just to be safe they gave the second calf a dose of artificial colostrum, just to give her a boost.

I learned a lot that morning. I was reminded that birth is in all creatures a natural process, that I needed more patience. And that I was hooked on ranch life and calving it was now going to be as much a part of my heart as it was Kyle's - I hoped he could handle it.

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