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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Calving Time


The last days of Summer and the first days of calving on a neighbouring property we look after. Five little ones on the ground already, just a wee bit early. Could be premature or could be the calendar work is poorly done. None the less its been a week since the last one but yesterday one girl was spotted with the telltale signs of an impending birth, just that little bit of mucous and the need not to run into the fresh paddock like the rest of the herd who kicked their heels in delight.
Resisted the urge to go back in the afternoon as it would serve no purpose. This morning arrived to find she had just calved. It was dead, the body still warm. What a sad sight. She was licking it vigorously trying to get it to do what newborn calves do but nothing happened. She looked at it “why won’t you get up? I’ve got warm milk for you”
Left her to mourn and checked the rest of the herd. Returned to find she was sitting on the ground beside her calf just looking at it sadly as she came to terms with her grief hoping it may still get up.
Harrowed the paddock keeping a distance so that she was undisturbed. After finishing swung past to check on her. She had moved about 10 metres away in acceptance of the inevitable but she still couldn’t quite leave it. Food was of no interest she was truly grieving.
As she sat there something at her rear end caught my attention. Something in a past experience said “that looks like another calf on the way” still don’t know what it was that created that thought all that sould be seen was a ball of watery blood inside her vagina which was twisted open by the angle of her seating. Maybe just hoping she gets a second chance.
Gently guided her into the new paddock and left.
At 5pm returned. Saw it straight away, a white patch in the grass. Another calf, same cow same situation – dead. This time a little boy the twin to this mornings little girl. Mum standing over it licking furiously trying to bring it to life with love. How much sadder can you get but to lose two babies in one day. Left her to grieve.
Her sisters stood nearby sharing her sadness. These things permeate through the herd. They are not unfeeling.
In another corner of the paddock her sister had given birth to a big healthy son. Mum was busy humming at her son and working hard at devouring the not so small after birth. Maybe the sad girl can be the doting auntie or manage the crèche to let the others forage.
Cattle are such stoic animals. They put up with pain, thirst and hunger and say little. The feel grief just like we do and their kin demonstrate an empathy to all this. Don’t understand how we can mistreat them.


Arrived early to move the herd to a fresh paddock. The grieving mum still standing near her baby. The girls moved easily into the new paddock. The childless girl moved in the direction of the gate but stopped looked back. She could go and tried to eat a little grass then moved back to her child. While harrowing was in progress she started towards the fresh paddock but each time turned back just not able to leave her little one.
After harrowing walked to her and slowly she turned to the gate and joined her sisters. It was as if she needed someone to make that decision for her.

A week Later

The after birth is retained requiring manual removal and some antibiotic as a precaution as well as a pessary.
This is not the same quiet girl of a few months ago. She is difficult move, standing her ground aggressively. Went off her feed for a day or so but is OK now. Keeping her separate for a few more days until fully recovered. She certainly seems traumatised by this sadness in her life. Maybe time will mend her.

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