Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heifer checks and pulling calves

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The first of our two year old, first-calf heifers calved out last night. This is exciting for a couple reasons. First of all, since these gals haven't given birth before they are statistically more likely to encounter problems that could lead to the death of the cow, calf or both. This means that we do our best to keep a close eye on them to ensure we are around when they go into labor so we are always checking on them every few hours. Nathan does checks at 11pm and 3am, Lloyd checks at 6am and if the two of them are out working on projects, I do checks throughout the day. Waking up at 3am every morning to get dressed and go wander around on a wet/slippery hillside is not anybody's idea of fun in these parts. However, when you go out to do checks and find a cow in distress and are able to assist, it makes it all worth it and keeps you motivated to be there for the rest of the herd.

When Nathan went out to check at 11pm, #55 was laying out behind the barn in labor. She had the calf partway out but was tired and no longer pushing. Nathan pulled a bit on the calf's legs while #55 pushed and the calf was out. She was a great mama and started mothering right away, calling to her calf as she cleaned him up (a little bull calf Nathan affectionately calls "Drainpipe").

With the brood herd, those old gals have had between 5 and 15 calves each, and they have the system down pretty well. While these first-calf heifers instinctively know what to do, even with a small calf (we breed first calf heifers to a bull that produces small calves) they can exhaust themselves during labor. For the most part it is (hopefully) easier on the cow, calf and us, to just step in and help pull the calf. This leaves the cow with more energy to mother up to the calf, clean it up and get it nursing.

With this first calf out of the way, we only have seven more to go before we can sleep through the night again. And what a good girl #55 was, she calved out on her due date - exactly 283 days (about 9 months) from the day we turned out the bull. Let's hope her sisters follow suit.

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