Over the halfway point

It always feels like such a milestone when you hit the halfway point in the calving season.

Will has been up around the clock checking all of our beautiful ladies in waiting for signs of labour.

Luckily the shorthorn is generally known for its easy calving as they will more often than not have a smaller calf but they are what we would call ‘good goers’! Meaning whilst they are on the smaller side at birth they are strong calves and grow quickly.

The majority of our cows are very docile and but there are a handful who are quite protective of their newborns so you always need you whits about you in the calving shed.

When a cow is showing signs of labour we will move her into our ‘Maternity Suite’ where she will give birth to her baby. The next day once we are sure that mother and calf have made a strong bond and the calf is feeding well we move them into our ‘Nursery Shed’. This shed has access to our ‘Nursery Paddock’ which means the cows and calves can run in and out of the shed as they please. It gives the calves a chance to get used to being outside before they are turned out with the rest of the herd.

Once we have around 6 cows and calves grouped in the nursery field they are moved across the road to graze with the rest of the herd. Moving young calves can be a little like trying to herd cats!!

It hasn’t all been plain sailing as a couple of weeks ago we had a cow who was clearly having problems. Will decided he needed to investigate the situation. The calf was in the ‘breach’ position and had all four legs tucked underneath. Will managed to manipulate the calves legs into a birthing position and attach ropes to the calving aid (one of the best things we have ever bought!). By working with the cows contractions we were able to get the calf out but he was in the twilight zone somewhere between alive and dead so calf ICU swung into operation….

Usually a calf will be born front feet first and will present a little like superman, which means on the way out gravity will clear their airways. But with a calf coming backwards fluid ends up going down their airways. So it is essential to get that cleared which means lifting them over a gate which emulates the natural birth position – this isn’t an easy task!

Once we have done this we will rub the calf vigorously with straw which really helps to wake him up and get him stimulated. It is always such a relief when you hear the first big breath. Once we are happy that the calf is in the land of the living we will release Mum to lick him. This action stimulates the calf further and the maternal bond is formed.

With this calf which the mini farmers have named ‘Buster’ as he had been in the wrong position in the womb his legs were very ‘bandy’ where they had been curled under him. Which meant he couldn’t straighten his legs or stand up. So Will had to milk the cow and then bottle feed the calf. Buster definitely had the will to live and was soon trying to stand but without much luck. Gradually his legs were getting stronger and stronger and after a couple of weeks of bottle feeding several times a day he is now up on his feet, walking around and feeding independently from his Mum. A brilliant result!! He will be staying in for the time being until he is a bit more confident on his legs but it won’t be long.

Without Will’s intervention in the birth we would certainly have lost Buster and could well have lost the cow.