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Assisting The Birth Of A Calf
The Miracle Of Life
We never know what the day has in storage for us and sometimes the most unexpectedly crazy things end up being the most beautiful experiences we have.
On Saturday evening I was getting ready for a night of clubbing in the city with some friends. As usual for these occasions I was wearing one of my little dresses and a flimsy coat, something very light so I would not become too hot in the clubs. All my other friends were dressed equally Summery, despite the weather being under zero degrees. After dinner and a few drinks, we were all ready to go dancing when one of my friends had an urgent phone call. One of his cows was in labour and another one was starting to give birth and they needed him there. So off he went and for some strange reason everybody else decided to follow him instead of going clubbing.
So, there we were, at midnight in the middle of the countryside in high heels and short dresses standing over iced-up puddles looking at a group of white cows. At first sight there was nothing happening until we saw one of the cows walking around with two little feet sticking out from under her tail. My friend got dressed in his farming clothes and went to help his cow while the rest of us were looking attentively from the other side of the gates. Some of the boys started going back to the house next to the stables to look for a hot drink while the girls stayed waiting for some action.
Eventually the cow was ready to give birth and settled in a corner so on a whim I climbed up the gate and went into the stables to caress her head. I must admit that this was the first time that I had seen a cow so close, I didn’t realize how big they were or how little I was next to one of them, and there was at least a dozen pregnant cows in there. But I don’t know what strange feeling took hold of me and I just wanted to comfort the cow. Looking back, maybe it was because I was the only one who had been a mother in the group of girls, that I felt some kind of “mother sisterhood” with the animal, maybe it was just curiosity, maybe it is just me!
Only after a few minutes of being born
Assisting the Birth of a Calf
After I went next to the cow, things happened very quickly. I started caressing her ears, whispering comforting things to her. She loved having her head scratched by my long nails and I was just left in another planet caressing such an enormous beast. At first my friend was worried when he saw me coming in but soon he forgot about me when he realized that we were both comfortable with it and the cow seemed to be comforted by my touch.
Eventually my friend put on these enormous plastic gloves that reached to his shoulders and introduced his hands in the cow's birth canal to tie up a cord around the little babies’ feet which had decided to go back in. After that, things went really fast; a couple of strong pulls of the cord and the calf was out, all covered in blood and fluids. The mother seemed to be very tired and the calf was unconscious. I thought it was dead as it was not moving or making a noise. Immediately, my friend poured a few drops of vinegar in the baby’s ear and the baby came back to life.
After that, cow and calf were taken together to a separate pen with clean straw where they were left alone to get to know each other. The baby had been heavily sprinkled with salt to encourage the mother to lick him to clean her and warm her up.
I was almost on the verge of tears having seen such a wonderful event. Me, a city girl was there comforting a cow, kneeling down next to her on the straw while she was giving birth. Because the cow had felt at ease with me –apparently some of them are very nervous and do not like strangers near them- my friend let me in the “private” pen to caress the mother and baby afterwards until the baby was completely clean and was encouraged by her mother to give her first steps and nurse.
Meantime, another cow that was also in labour when we arrived was having her baby all by herself. This one being a more nervous type did not allow anyone near her or her newborn who was bigger and stronger looking than the first newborn.
It was only when we went back to the house where the boys were finishing all the left over champagne from the New Year celebrations around the fireplace that I realized that my hands were numb and blue with the cold and it was minus 7 degrees outside! My high heels were ruined with mud and dirt and my coat full of straw. But it was such a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t mind freezing again just to share such a fantastic moment.
Calf care : a few minutes after calving
Essential Guide to Calving
Calf Care basics
- Calves are expected to nurse in the first two hours after birth. The colostrum milk provides the calf with an initial dose of antibodies vital in the first four hours after birth.
- The calf is very susceptible to hypothermia, particularly in the first four hours. Hence the importance to urge the cow to lick her calf to clean it and keep it warm. "Newborn calves have only 3% body fat (compared to 16% in human newborns), leaving them heavily dependent on nutritional energy sources for heat production" (Alexander et al. 1975).
Coming back to see the newborn calf
© 2009 Wendy Iturrizaga