Before we talk about Preparing for Calving, I've got to get this song out of my head:
(Sung to the tune of ‘Smelly Cat')
Sally Belle, Sally Belle
When will that baby come?
Sally Belle, Sally Belle
It's not too soooooon.
Sorry. I'm trying to think of anything that I can to keep my mind off of Sally's impending birth. Making up new lyrics and singing jingles from ‘Friends' included. Hence the Smelly Cat song.
It's just that… well, we've been on our farm – attempting to get a calf – for two years now. Our first cow Kula was a bust – two dates with a bull and two rounds of artificial insemination later, she still couldn't get bred. Kula has since left us and was replaced with our sweet Sally (Here's our sad update on our beloved Sally). The first round with a bull was unsuccessful, due in part to our lack of making sure she would stand for ‘lil ol' Hiro. By the second go round, we were practically out there with pom-poms and bells, cheering them on. We tied Sally up to the fence, apologized for what was about to happen, and make sure the deed was done.
Which, Lord Hallelujah, it was.
When we got Sally's pregnancy results back, I wept like a baby. Thanks in part to a determined bull, a good halter, and a wonderful loose mineral program, our Sal was finally going to half a calf.
Since that day, my persistent prayer was that she would carry the calf full term. I've witnessed miscarriages and preterm labors in cattle – it's never the end one hopes for. And, thank you Jesus, here we are. Just a day shy of her due date.
We've made it this far.
After Pocket's death, I realized that (as the saying goes) even when the chickens hatch, it's still not safe to count them. As it goes with this painful, deeply beautiful life on the farm. And while I certainly don't wish to carry a pessimism through this birth, I'm aware of all the possible scenarios and what that may mean for our farm.
I'm prepared as I can be for this birth and the waiting is getting to be painful. Not as painful as it has to be for Sally, lugging that gigantic udder and belly around the pasture, but painful none the less.
I keep peeking down into the pasture… eager to see a tuft of fur… to see a bag of water… to see a few front hooves… to see anything! I know, I know, a watched pot never boils. But eventually it has to, right? RIGHT?
Sorry. I didn't meant to yell.
Preparing For Calving
You know they're true friends when you can send them photos of your cow's vulva. Just sayin'.
Anyway, per their advice and information I've gathered from here and there, here's what we have on hand in preparation for the calving:
I've been through three births… things get gooey, man. And while my plan is to interfere as little as possible, we have towels in case we need to assist in wiping off the calf, cleaning up a mess, etc.
This is worse case scenario for us, as we're planning on letting the calf nurse for a week and a half before we start milking Sal. But should something happen to Sal during the birth, we'll utilize the calf bottle and nipple to feed the calf milk replacer and colostrom.
Again, worse case scenario here. If something happens to Sal, it's still critical that we get the calf colostrum as soon as possible. Because we've never calved before here on the farm, we don't have any frozen colostrum on hand. I purchased a bag from our local feed store. Just in case.
Please pray that we don't need the colostrum.
4. Milk fever mixture
Milk fever is what keeps me awake at night. Tossing, turning, flipping the pillow. It's always about milk fever. It's a low risk – but it's still a risk. We've been following Ashley's advice on feeding a pregnant cow in order to help prevent milk fever, but we've got a mixture on hand just in case. More on this in a separate post…
It's one of the easiest ways to tell if something is wrong. And it's a special thermometer. Because… well, you know where it goes…
I'm more of a gloveless type of girl myself, but in order to keep any risk of infection or germ spreading to a minimum, I have plastic gloves on hand just in case we need to get all up in that biz-nass.
For a naval cord dip for the calf and to clean Sal's nether-regions, should we need to interfere.
To calm Sally, to calm myself (EEEEEKKKK!!!!!), and to utilize as a disinfectant for cleaning our materials.
9. Calf Chains
In case we need to assist Sally by pulling the calf out, we have calf chains. I've used these many times before on beef cows – they can be gnarly. I really don't want to use them if I don't have to. That being said, we've got 'em and we know how to use them.
Because we bred Sal to a Dexter bull, I'm hoping for a nice, petite calf that she can easily manage on her own.
10. The phone number of a local veterinarian
Because when things go bad, they typically go bad faaaaaast.
Am I as prepared as I should be? Nope. Am I terrified? You bet ya. Sally is the queen of our farm – she's the star on top of our Christmas tree. The Elliott Homestead without her would be no farm I'd want to live on [UPDATE: Click here to read up on our new dairy cow, Cecelia.]
Okay fine, I'm being dramatic again, but I love my girl dearly. I'm anxiously awaiting her new calf, praying the birth goes smooth as freshly churned butter, and trying my best to not annoy her too much in the meantime by staring at her backside.
Baby got serious back.
At least for a day or so more…
More of our posts on Cows:
- How to Tell When A Cow Will Calve
- How to Milk a Cow Once a Day
- The New Family Milk Cow: Welcoming Cecelia
- The Real Anatomy of a Cow
- How to Properly Handle Raw Milk