Monday, June 24, 2013

April Calving 2013

APRIL 10 – After several days of treatment, Lilly Ann recovered, but we kept her in a small pen by herself so the other cows wouldn’t boss her around. We will keep her separate until she calves—and hope that her calf will be ok after her high fever.

Andrea and I rode several more days, trying to put a lot of miles on Sprout and get her past her attempts at bucking. I rode Ed most days, but also rode Breezy to help her get back in shape again, too.

On Thursday Michael and Carolyn helped one of our neighbors all day, branding and vaccinating calves. Bruce had recently broken several ribs after being bucked off his horse while helping another neighbor work cattle—so he needed help with his own branding.

That evening we fed a couple of Andrea’s kids supper after we brought them home from the school bus (the other kids were still in town for various activities and Andrea went in to get them). Dani and Sam helped me with chores. They love to see the new baby calves, and always help name them. Dani named the first ones Thunder Bull, Lightning Strike, Brownie Tip Tail, Merrinina, Bug Eyed Bear, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, etc. Sammy named the first heifer calf Emerald.

Andrea has been coming down here to watch the cows during the first part of the night, until I get up early in the morning to type articles and continue the cow-checking. Lynn and I went to bed early that night and I woke up at 9:30 and realized Andrea hadn’t come down yet. I looked out the window to check the cows in the maternity pen with the spotlight and could see that one of the heifers (Buffalo Baby) had just calved—lying there by the fence with a newborn calf emerging behind her.

I quickly dressed and went out there. It must have been a fast and easy birth because Buffalo Baby hadn’t shown any signs of labor when we went to bed. She didn’t even know she’d calved! She got up when I approached, and seemed somewhat startled by this wee creature behind her.

The night was cold and some of the other cows and heifers were approaching--curious to check out the new baby--so we needed to put this heifer and baby in the barn, out of the wind, where they could bond without interference from the other cattle. I woke Lynn and we pulled the calf to the barn in the calf sled. Buffalo Baby was confused and didn’t want to follow the sled, but her own mother (Buffalo Girl) came marching after us, sniffing her new grandchild, and I was able to persuade Buffalo Baby to follow her old mother. Thus we made a quaint parade to the barn—Lynn pulling the calf sled, Buffalo Girl sniffing the sled, Buffalo Baby following her, and me following the confused young mother.

We put them all in the barn, with Buffalo Girl in the adjacent stall from the new mama and baby, to give her company and reassurance. Buffalo Baby started licking the calf and mooing, but when the calf got up, the young mama wasn’t sure what to do with this lively creature that kept circling round her trying to find the udder. The little calf finally got cold and discouraged. So we heated up some of the colostrum that we’d stolen from Freddy a few days earlier and fed her a bottle. This gave the calf energy and renewed enthusiasm. She resumed her pursuit of the udder and finally caught up with it—nursing happily while her mama lovingly licked her little hind end.

Friday morning I put MagniKate (a second calf cow) into one of the calving pens when she went into labor. By noon it started to pour rain, so I put her in the barn to calve. She had a nice bull calf. It rained hard off and on the rest of the day, so we were glad we have a calving barn.

Saturday morning Michael had planned to go get the new backhoe tire and change the tires, but one of his horses (Gus) had gotten out of the pasture on our upper place and was out on the range, and Michael had to go find him. Lynn took our flatbed trailer to town to get the new tire. Michael eventually tracked down Gus and was glad to see that he was not injured. Then he spent the rest of the morning checking the fence, to fix it. He found the low spot where wildlife had mashed it down and Gus had stepped over it. Michael came down later in the day to change the backhoe tire (so he can use the backhoe to clean the wild meadow ditch on the upper place) and took home another big bale for their old horses.

That evening Andrea went to the benefit auction for a young woman in our community who has inoperable cancer. We all donated things for the auction. Andrea made a nice basket of Mary Kay products, and I donated about 20 autographed books (some of my horse and cattle books) and a few of my father’s books. Our family is forever grateful for the community support that came to our aid when Andrea was in the burn ICU in Salt Lake 13 summers ago, fighting for her life, and we try to help when other people are in desperate need.

Yesterday Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed again for a couple hours (after skipping a few days when we were too busy), and took them on another fast short ride this afternoon. Sprout is still a bit obnoxious and tries to buck occasionally, but once the hills dry out a bit more (not so muddy and slippery) and we aren’t so busy calving, we can take her on longer, harder rides.

APRIL 15 – During Andrea’s night shift watching cows, she has been working on her old room here, getting some of the stored stuff sorted and moved out—to make room for the kids to sleep in there when they spend the night here, so they won’t have to sleep on a couch.

The two little girls slept there this past weekend, happy to be able to help do chores and feeding in the mornings while Andrea sleeps. They helped Lynn and me move cows and new calves out to the field, feed and water the pairs still in the pens by the barn, etc.

They also make sure that all the calves get named! Dani tries to pet any of the calves she can get close to, and we took pictures of her petting Cupie Doll’s new baby.

Thursday evening we had 3 calves. Maggie (Dani’s favorite old cow) was in early labor so we put her in the barn to keep Maggeruite (her granddaughter) company. Dani and I kept an eye on the heifer, watching quietly through the back door of the barn where she couldn’t see us. The calf’s feet were showing (and very large), and she was taking too long, so I sent Dani to the house to get Lynn and the OB chains. Lynn and I pulled the calf—a big bull.

By then it was getting dark but we could see that the last heifer (Mary Mary Conskentrary—named by Dani 2 years ago) was also calving. When we put her in the barn, we saw that Maggie had calved. Dani was very disappointed because the old cow did it so quickly that Dani didn’t get to watch the birth like she did last year. We let her go in and see the new calf and pet it quickly, and then we had to get out of the barn and leave Mary Mary (one of our most flighty heifers) in peace to have her baby.

When we peeked in next, Mary Mary was getting more serious about labor, and Maggeruite’s calf had tried and tried to nurse his mama and was giving up. Maggie’s big blundering boy was thinking about nursing, so Andrea and I sneaked into her stall and milked some extra from Maggie while her calf was nursing. Then we fed Maggeruite’s calf some of his great-grandma’s colostrum—which gave him enough energy to keep trying to nurse his own mama. By then Mary Mary had calved—a little heifer calf—and was tentatively mothering it. We ended up giving that calf a little “jump start” with some of Maggie’s colostrum, too. Both calves eventually caught up with their mamas. The next day we put Mary Mary and her new baby Silver Bell out in the pen below the barn.

Friday evening Andrea took the kids to the school play. Emily’s drama class put on “Little Shop of Horrors” for 3 nights, and did a great job.

Saturday was very cold and windy, with a nasty blizzard mid-day, after we’d put 3 new pairs out of the barn into the 2nd day pens.

Those pens have good windbreaks, but the bedding got wet and cold with new snow. Andrea put new hay in there after the blizzard quit, so the calves would have a dry place to snuggle into.

Lynn loaded 8 more big round bales on our big truck and hauled them up to Michael and Carolyn’s stackyard, since they’ve run out of hay. Andrea took our tractor up there to unload the bales. One of their old cows had just had a new baby during the blizzard, and was cold and wet, but trying to nurse. Andrea and Lynn put some hay in the brush for bedding for the new pair.

Saturday night one of the calves we’d put out of our barn (Maggeruite’s big bull calf) was lethargic and not nursing, so at 2 a.m. we put that pair back in the barn, gave the calf antibiotics, and fed him a bottle. He was feeling better by morning and it looked like he might have sucked one or two teats.

Sunday morning Sammy and Dani helped us do chores and feed the cows. They enjoyed petting Maggie’s calf, and searched around outside the pen to find some green grass tall enough to pick some handfuls to feed Maggie. That old cow loves licking grass out of their hands.

We had another blizzard last night. Snow was blowing hard when we checked on Maggeruite’s calf again in the barn. He was acting hungry again and it didn’t look like he’d nursed his mama, so we helped him. It’s almost like he’d forgotten how to nurse, but Andrea was able to get him on 3 teats, and the young mama was very patient. She seemed to know that he needed help.

Only 3 more cows left to calve. We’re hoping they get it over with soon, or the weather gets nicer. It seems crazy to be having such nasty weather this late in the spring, but we’re glad we have a calving barn for these windy, snowy nights!

APRIL 23 – Last Wednesday Lilly Ann finally calved. We were glad to see that the calf was normal and healthy, after her serious illness and high fever 3 weeks ago. He was a little small, perhaps because the cow was so stressed for awhile in late gestation, but he was strong and lively.

The next morning when Lynn and I were feeding cows, we noticed a group of cows and calves coming down the road above our place. We hurriedly finished feeding and got the 4-wheeler and roared up the road to head off the cows before they got down to our lane and into our haystack. We herded them back up to the neighbor’s place where a gate had been left open, and put them back into their own field. Lynn took another load of (eight) big round bales up to Michael and Carolyn’s place on our big flatbed truck. Michael finished cleaning the Wild Meadow ditch with the backhoe.

Magrat finally started calving Sunday morning. She’s never calved in a barn; her first 3 calves were born outdoors. The weather this year has been so miserable, however, that we were afraid we might have to put her in the barn, and she’s a huge, tall cow—capable of jumping over the division panel between the stalls and smashing it. In preparation for the possibility of barn calving, Andrea and I put her and Buffalo Girl in the barn for a trial run last week, in adjacent stalls so Magrat wouldn’t be all by herself. She was quite content. This is much different, however, than being in labor—in pain and upset. That’s when most cows get more frantic and try to “climb the walls” and get out. So a few days ago Andrea and I tied a big long pole across the low spot, above the panel, so it would be nearly impossible for her to jump over.

Even though the weather was fairly nice Sunday morning, by the time Magrat was in serious labor, the wind was blowing and it was starting to rain. So we put her in the barn, again with Buffalo Girl for company. Magrat didn’t try to jump out, and she had a nice bull calf. We put Buffalo Girl back out.

That evening we all went to visit our new neighbors (the Amish families) around the hill, and enjoyed singing hymns with them for a couple of hours. Afterward Andrea’s little girls enjoyed playing with one of the girls their age, and Charlie played chess with the boy that’s his age. Lynn and I left a little early, to come home and check on Buffalo Girl, since the weather was really bad by then—rain turned to snow.

A few hours later, in the middle of the night, Buffalo Girl started calving, and we put her back in the barn. Andrea went home to get Dani—who wanted to watch Buffalo Girl calve, since she’d missed seeing Maggie calve. Andrea and Dani sat out in the barn and watched. The calf wasn’t breathing at first, and Andrea had to jump into the stall and get the sac off its head and start it breathing. Buffalo Girl bellowed a lot, and rooted her new calf around until it was able to get up. Dani went back to bed on the couch, and later that morning wrote a story about the calving episode, took it to school, and read it to her class. So now we are finally done calving!

Michael helped us tag and band Magrat’s bull calf today, and eartag Buffalo girl’s heifer calf.

In a few weeks, after the weather gets nicer, we’ll brand and vaccinate the calves and give the cows their pre-breeding vaccinations. For now we are glad that calving is over and we don’t have to get up in the nights anymore to check on the cows.