New cows!

Newborn calf, five minutes old

There was action in the barn in the wee hours today. A couple of the cows gave birth. Here’s the first new one, around five minutes after his 4 am delivery into the cold barn.

This is the second time I’ve watched the whole thing unfold. The first was maybe a year ago. In both cases, human intervention was required, which consisted of Bob with a length of chain wrapped around a pair of calf’s feet, pulling.

Last time, he explained it was a dry birth, where the embryonic sac breaks too soon, the head dries out, and, less lubricated, it sticks on the way out. A little feet-planted-firmly tug-o-war type pulling and…a new cow!

This time was a little more complicated, a breech birth, with the calf turned right around so its back end was aiming out instead of the head. Particularly with first-time births, the mothers aren’t relaxed enough to let the bigger back end out first.

To help things along, the stainless steel calving chain was wrapped around the hind legs and attached to a cable with a ratchet, in turn attached to a steel fence post set in concrete.

The long-handled ratchet allows the cable to be pulled with more force than a person alone could manage, as long as the cow stays put and sets herself against the pull (which she seems to do, since I guess she too wants the baby out!).

After some minutes of pulling, out popped the calf. It’s a boy!

There’s lots of bloody fluid and trailing bits, and the calf lies there at first like a limp, wet, bloody corpse. But the mother is right on it, licking away, and within minutes its head is up and peering around, and if all’s well, it’ll awkwardly stagger to its feet in under half an hour. Pretty cool!

The second mother gave birth around four hours later. The first time watching all this was interesting, a little sensational with all the bloody fluid. The second time, it was simply satisfying, another really basic part of life that most of us in the modern world just plain miss (we eat meat and drink milk, don’t we…well, a lot us do)?

I’m not sure about the breeding timing or anything like that, like, Why calves now? With Bob’s cows, I’m an observer, sometime consumer, occasional chaser.

Three-hour-old calf

Here’s the second calf, three hours after an 8am arrival, up and tottering around! Sturdy!! It’s fascinating to watch them rapidly get used to their legs, steadier by the hour.

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13 thoughts on “New cows!”

  1. That’s amazing–thanks for sharing! I wonder how a human mother would take to having her kid dragged out with a ratchet and chain. Hmm…good thing we don’t do that.

  2. It’s good to be reminded where our meat and milk come from – lots of kids today have no idea. It’s a magical thing isn’t it – even when the birth’s a tough one. Not seen it with calves myself, but did with sheep when I was a student.

  3. Hi, I have admired your grow rack design for seedlings and was curious
    why you chose not to put two lamps per shelf, as it seems as with the 2 x 4 foot plywood shelf you could comfortable fit two of the four foot lamps side by side
    and double your seedlings per rack.

    Would appreciate your thoughts.

    Travis at Grace Farm

  4. Congratulations on your births! I always find the birthing process so miraculous. It is wonderful to be able to witness moment a new life enters the world. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Shawn at Steed Farm

  5. Awesome. We are a stocker steer operation but pictures like this make me want to do a little cow/calfing. Plus, who doesn’t want to hook a come-a-long onto some legs and wench them out. Got to do this one time but unfortunately it was a still born. Really enjoy your farm. Thanks for putting our farm on your blog links.

  6. Thanks from me also for adding my blog.

    I’m probably just nosey but I love seeing how other people do things on their farms and gardens. Thats one thing I’ve realised with my moving about the place, that something that you take for granted can only be done one way turns out to have many other ways to be done. I find that fascinating and so useful if something I’m doing doesn’t work or I haven’t a clue where to start on something I want to do.

    So thanks for posting all your experiences, I’ve really enjoyed reading through them

  7. Oh Wow! This was a really interesting post for me, being fairly far removed from any working farm. Do you raise the cattle to sell, or just for your families needs? I imagine that having animals on a micro-farm takes it to a whole other level of complexity–did you start out with just vegetables? or have you had animals the whole time?

  8. HEY GREAT NEW BABYS, MY COWS ARE ALSO CALVING, SO FAR THIS YEAR HAVEN’T HAD TO PULL ONE. I HAVE BEEN PUTTING PIC’S OF BABY’S ON MY BLOG TOO BUT NONE AS NEW AS YOURS!!!
    ANY BITS OF INFO FOR NEW ORGANIC GARDENERS? THANKS

  9. Mountain Dweller: Calves are pretty sturdy, string wouldn’t work! :) They’re around 90lbs.

    Travis: I’m gonna build another grow rack soon. I’ve just gone through what’s turning into an annual thinking through of whether to get high intensity lights, or stick with fluorescents. I’ve had my eye on a metal-halide set-up that’s supposed to provide primary light to an 8’x8′ area, which is the equivalent of three racks. But I think I’m sticking to racks again this year. I’ll post my bit of lighting experience in the forum, I’ll start a lighting topic!

    Jason K. & Deborah: You both have such different operations in different parts of the world, and I find both (and the detail on your blogs) so…cool! And they’re like different parts of a bigger thing!! You should make sure to read each other’s!

    Jen: The cows (and goats) are on the farm but they belong to Bob, and they’re not directly part of the veggie market garden. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be starting chickens soon, in a small way, and that’ll be my own first time with raising animals for myself. I helped take care of 20-30 goats daily for a year or so, but that was just to help out.

    HOOP: Too bad you didn’t get your URL entered… Just type it in! I try to post an explanation of what I’m up to in the garden, for better or for worse, right here through the year. Every garden and gardener is kinda different!

  10. HEY THANKS FOR EMAIL AND I FINALLY READ UP TILL I FIGURED IT OUT, YEAH,LOL. HOPE BABIES ARE DOING GOOD. HAVE A GREAT DAY. THANKS AGAIN.

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