<< Back to main

Spring's First Calf

Posted 4/23/2009 10:13am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.


This morning after the girls got on the bus I went out to the barn to feed our bottle lamb and push hay forward for the heifers and rams.  I recognized the sound of cow in labor almost immediately.  As though they are trying to coax out their calf, they begin to give a low and gentle moo as they pace around looking for a place to lie down.   Thankfully Roy decided to take the day off work to recover from the flu.    We separated the heifer into a larger, cleaner pen and then left her alone.  After an hour Roy went to check on her and she hadn’t made any progress.   So like most of the farmers in our valley who are having trouble with a cow, he called Charles and asked him to bring his calf puller just in case.   When Charles arrived twenty minutes later the calf’s head was out and its tongue was beginning to swell, which is an indication that it needed to be pulled immediately.  The heifer was lying down at the time and Charles was able to get the chains of the calf - puller around it's legs and pull calf onto the dust and straw covered barn floor as the heifer stood up.  By the time I arrived on the scene, the heifer was gently licking the calf’s navel, instinctively cleaning the part of her calf that is most susceptible to infection.  So now we watch and wait for it to get up and drink.  A difficult birth can impact the first hours of its life.  It looks promising though since by the time I came back to the house it was lifting its head and beginning to kick its legs. 

I’ve written many times of the invaluable help we get from our neighbors, especially Charles and Tammy, who milk cows on the same dairy farm where Charles was born.  They are generous with their skills, knowledge, and humorous stories.  While we watched the young cow attending to her newborn, Charles told us about his previous day’s adventure learning the skill of artificial insemination.   It is hard not to have some misadventures when one hand is holding up the tail of a cow while the other is inserted in a cow’s vagina up to your shoulder, but few people retell that particular quest with the same self-deprecating humor as Charles.  Can’t ask for a better way to spend a rainy morning than in dry barn with the mothering sounds of cow and calf, laughing at the stories told by a good friend and neighbor.