The 2019 Calving Season is officially underway here on the farm. As I discussed in a previous post, I will be doing a series called “Observations from THE PASTURE”, throughout the calving season. Simply put, I will be documenting (with text and pictures) the adventures of the past week on the farm in terms of calving and related activities.
Without further ado, I present Observations from THE PASTURE: Week 1 of the 2019 Calving Season.
Week of Monday, April 29th – Sunday, May 5th
Monday, April 29th – Calm before the storm! Several ladies looked VERY ready to close the chapter on their pregnancies today. No babies, yet!
Tuesday, April 30th – Calving has started! After putting our oldest son on the bus, I went to check the herd, just like I do every morning. As I opened the gate and walked into the back pasture, I immediately knew that we had a new member of the herd. I saw a mama cow (away from the rest of the herd, towards the back of the field) with a BABY CALF! Yippee!!! Jer was on the road that morning, headed for some work training. Not wanting him to miss the moment, I whipped out my phone and told my youngest son that we needed to call daddy! Jer was happy to hear the news, and I was sure to text lots of pictures of our new baby!
This mama cow was one that we had predicted would calve soon, and we made that prediction based on the progression and development of her udder, teats and vulva area.
It was very special to share this moment with my son. He was so excited to see the baby. Last year, he was only 2 years old and not as “aware” of the farm activities as he is today. Nothing gets past him. He is 3 going on 30!
After seeing no other activity, we headed back to the house to have some breakfast.
The two of us headed back out for another check before lunchtime/naptime. As we made our way across the pasture, I stopped to snap a few pictures of one of the cows. After taking a few pictures, we resumed our walk and lo and behold we nearly stumbled into a brand-spanking-new baby calf!
This calf had JUST been born. We missed the birth by mere seconds. My son was AMAZED! What an adventure for him.
We stepped back and gave the mama and baby some much needed privacy. I was able to capture those first moments after birth. (Please note that all of my pictures are taken using the zoom feature. I am not actually that close!)
It doesn’t matter how many times you have seen it before – there is nothing quite so special as watching a baby calf gather up those long legs, push up and STAND, and then take those first wobbly steps. Usually within 20-30 minutes of being born, our newborn baby calves are already walking like experts and taking in their first nursing session (getting in those critical antibodies from their mother’s colostrum).
While doing the last check of the evening, I noticed that one of our older mama cows was extremely moody. She was picking fights and packing a very, very large udder. I told Jer that I was predicting she would calve the next day.
Wednesday, May 1st
Jer did all of the checks today. I wasn’t feeling so well and went to the doctors. As I was driving to the doctors in the morning, though, Jer and our son discovered baby calf #3!
This calf’s mama is the same cow that was picking fights the night before!
Jer continued with checks throughout the day and while many ladies looked very close, no other babies were born.
Thursday, May 2nd
Thursday found me back to the grind. While my body would have loved another rest day, Jer had to get to work and those mamas needed checking on.
Well, I had a very sweet discovery during the morning check. One of our 1st-calf heifers (we have four this year) had had a baby sometime in the last hour or two. Calf #4!
It is always a big relief for a 1st-calf heifer to labor and deliver with ease. With it being their first delivery, sometimes these 1st-time mamas need a little assistance from us, and we have helped pull calves from a couple through the years.
Friday, May 3rd
This day found me a year older – hello to being 34 years young! The day did not disappoint. Despite still being sick, I had a great birthday with my three men. They sang me Happy Birthday in the morning and proudly presented me with a homemade birthday card, complete with army men figure drawings. I was also presented with some very special items built from legos. 🙂
The farm did not disappoint either, and I discovered a birthday buddy that afternoon! I figure that this calf, calf #5, was born while I was walking across the field. Unlike the four previous calves, this little one had a little difficulty getting going.
In the end, I had to help prompt, stimulate, and literally stand the calf up (the mother helped out as well, with lots of licking and encouragement). I want to note that normally we do not interfere in the post-birth bonding process AT ALL. If we have been fortunate enough to witness the delivery or shown up shortly after, before the calf has even stood, we are always careful to give plenty of space and to just observe nature take it’s course. I do like to capture the moment on my camera, using the zoom feature. Most of the time, the calf stands up, walks, starts nursing and all is well. In this instance, the calf was not making any efforts to stand, despite all of the mother’s attempts. Mama cow kept licking and the calf would lift it’s head but then lay it back down.
After watching for several minutes, I decided to step-in and give my birthday buddy some assistance. It took me several tries of literally lifting the calf up and stretching out it’s legs, but my birthday buddy eventually figured it out!
I left them on a high note, with baby taking in it’s first nursing.
I call that a pretty good birthday gift!
Saturday, May 4th
By Saturday, we had had a calf born each day, with two born the first day of the calving season! Would today follow suit or would calving take a pause for the day?
Well, the party kept on coming….Hello, Baby #6! Discovering this baby was just as exciting as finding Baby #1!
Keep ’em coming ladies!
Sunday, May 5th
Well, the streak had to end at some point! No babies born today. The weather today was phenomenal and humans and cattle alike thoroughly enjoyed it!
A few notes..
- This is still just as exciting as it was 5 years ago, when we were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first calf. The anticipation, the thrill, the joy and the satisfaction of a live, healthy calf…. it never gets old, and I pray it always stays that way
- Be sure to keep up with proper nutrition. For us, that means making sure we keep providing our mineral supplements. This is a very physically demanding time right now, especially for our 1st-calf heifers. Our cows are having babies, nursing those babies, AND gearing their bodies up to be re-bred in a couple of months. Since our soils are very depleted in important minerals such as selenium and copper, it is up to us to make sure our animals do not develop any deficiencies that could impact their development and reproductive abilities.
- Speaking of re-breeding, keep in mind your breeding season timeline. For us, we do not keep our bull in with the mama cows during the calving season. He will get re-introduced to the ladies in late-July, when we start another breeding season. We do this for two reasons: 1) We do not want any breeding to happen until we WANT it to happen!, and 2) We don’t like having the bull in with the herd while the babies are being born. No need to take any chances with any babies potentially getting injured. Our bull has a very mild disposition, but he is still a bull and a very big (2000 lb) boy.