Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

First calves of 2014

Alan on day one

Alan on day one

As usual, we fail to predict the arrival of our first calf. After ten years of doing this we still fumble around for some kind of certainty to replace the ‘well sometime soon’ when asked exactly when the calves will arrive.Last Sunday morning Alan arrived (name suggested by daughter; don’t know why). A sturdy bull calf who has been up and feeding, is tagged and already is doing quite a bit of jumping and galloping about.

Yesterday Jane checked the herd at lunch time and reported a heifer called ‘May’ behaving strangely; walking around oddly and being very friendly with her mum, ‘Pepper’ – both subtle signs. At 3.15pm, having finished burning the brash from our laid hedge, we checked them again and May is flat out with a calf looking like it’s about to be born – head and feet out, tongue lolling alarmingly. I thought initially that she was dead but thankfully she wasn’t. But worryingly, she wasn’t producing contractions. In most cases, once the head’s clear, after the front legs, everything happens quickly and a new calf pops out in a wave of fluid and membranes. This wasn’t happening. We watched and waited. We worried. A call to our very helpful vet resulted in the advice – “You need to help. Have you got a calving jack?” No jack but we do have some ropes so with some nervousness, we fetched iodine, attached the ropes to the calf’s legs and pulled.

Fortunately, a big heifer calf appeared without too much effort on our part. Unlike the first, which had got up almost immediately, this one took a while to move at all. However, after a minute or two and some fussing by us, it was shaking its head and being licked by an obviously exhausted mother.

Experience is worth a lot – spotting the signs and having seen it before is worth a lot. But each one’s different and although a cliché, a miracle.


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