Back in March we bought some cows. We bought two longhorn, one bred and one with a calf, a bred lineback and a steer. The cows all have their own stories and personalities. One day I’ll take time to write more about them. But this entry is about the lineback cow.
We named each of the cows. Any cow that is destined to the freezer has a food name. The mama cows don’t have food names. We had a hard time coming up with a name for the lineback, but a little research showed us that this particular breed was a New England breed, so we named her after Ken’s grandmother who was raised in Cape Cod. Genevieve became Jenni-beef, or Jenni for short.
Jenni is kind of a bossy cow, and has been rather unfriendly to us. But she loves bread as a treat so she tolerates us.
When we got her we were told she was due in December and had no problem giving birth in the past.
Along comes November and she looked HUGE. We expected her to deliver earlier than expected. It became a daily question: has she had the baby yet? Answer: no. Kids were frustrated with us asking constantly.
December came and went. January brought crazy cold temperatures. Wind chills reaching -20*. So, of course, on January 2 at 10:15 am, with temps in the single digits and wind chills below zero, our 10 year old comes in from doing her barn chores and says that Jenni is giving birth. Time for warm clothes and heavy boots and a trek through the snow. Sure enough, two hoofs are coming out. Birth is imminent! Right? Wrong!
By the way, you can see the cow shelter at the left edge of the picture. But apparently it wasn’t good enough for Jenni to birth in, she prefered to lay on the cold snow. (You can also see the white calf Milkshake, who was born on our farm in the spring.)
We continue to trek in and out, from the warm house to the pasture to check on her. Some progress is made, but by noon there still isn’t a calf, progress hasn’t been made beyond the hoofs and a small amount of the legs. Ken decides to open the barn so that she can get some warmth. She gets up, and while moving the cow into the barn she sucks the baby back in. Ken calls the vet. The vet is on another emergency call, but isn’t too far away and will come to us as soon as he can.
By 1:30 or so we can see the calf’s nose along with hoofs and legs. Maybe the calf will be born without the vet. Nope. And around 2:15 I was certain the calf was dead. The tongue was sticking out stiff and I couldn’t see any movement. Jenni was thrashing around violently and looked in tremendous distress. I was concerned at this point for Jenni.
Vet showed up a bit after 2:30, pulled up in his 4 wheel truck, just started pulling out items from his truck and came into the barn where Jenni was on the floor. He quickly assessed and informed us that the calf was in a good position and the calf just needed a pull. He wrapped a chain around the legs, braced himself and pulled. I took a video, but didn’t manage to get a still picture in the 15 seconds it took to pull the calf out.
Calf came out, vet checked and said the calf was alive, but it was good he didn’t come any later because it was close. He told us to keep Jenni and calf in the barn for a few days bc of the cold.
Vet was in and out in less than 15 minutes, off to another call after ours. I still don’t even know the vet’s name. We will get a bill in the mail.
In the spring when our longhorn had her baby she immediately got up, started licking the calf, nuzzled it until it wobbled over to nurse about 75 minutes after birth. Jenni was different, likely because of the very difficult birth. But she just didn’t seem that interested in the calf. She licked the calf some, but not with much effort. She really liked the hay bales more. Almost an hour later, the calf was still down, shivering, and Jenni was not that interested. So I got a couple of older towels for Ken and our 14 year old to rub the calf.
A newborn calf is supposed to be up and walking by an hour, and nursing shortly after that. Ken and E got the calf dried off with towels and then had to help it stand up and walk. Jenni kept trying to get into position to nurse, but the calf was confused and couldn’t get lined up properly. I joked that the calf wanted to be a manatee and nurse up under the armpits instead of by the stinky parts.
We had to help the calf get in position, but even then she wouldn’t nurse. She wanted to suck on E’s fingers. This is the point where I said we needed to name it after a dumb food, like cold pizza, microwave popcorn or ramen noodles (all three of which I actually like……). For now, until we find out the gender, the calf is called Cold Pizza.
Jenni, who has never been a friendly cow, let us do all sorts of things to help the calf start to nurse. Eventually Ken and I had blocked in the calf so it couldn’t back away and E was squeezing the teets into Cold Pizza’s mouth. This is a beef breed, not a milking cow, so far as I know she has never had her udders touched by people. She seemed to understand that we were going to help her and never acted skittish or nervous about us being right there, touching her, manipulating her calf, etc.
I don’t even know how long it took before the calf nursed a little, but there was a lot of talk about heading to Tractor Supply to buy colostrum and replacement milk– something we definitely did NOT want to do. Finally we saw the calf sucking and swallowing.
Then we had to prep a place for them to stay the night. The barn in its entirety is not safe for them without supervision at this point in time. However, there is an old pig stall that we had not cleaned after moving in, so we called up the other teen to come help clean and prep the stall with hay for bedding, food and water. We had to bribe Jenni to go in with bread, and pretty much pick up and carry the calf over because it decided it was tired and wanted to nap.
We didn’t get back into the house until after 7:30. It felt like midnight. We were cold and tired. Ken, E & I were all in need of a shower after handling the wet calf. I’ll spare the details.
So yesterday was my planned start back to school for 2018. Ha! Instead we spend the entire day waiting for the calf, worrying about the calf, and taking care of the calf. It was definitely a memorable first day not-back-to-school!