calving and cow feet

Friday, August 1, 2014:

Sweetheart is a first calf heifer, meaning she’s only calved once.  She’s half Jersey, half Freisian, a large-boned black-on-white girl with an upside-down heart on her left side, hence her name.  The boys, it must be allowed, said the upside-down heart looked like something else and wanted to adjust her name accordingly, especially when she was a young heifer, resisting the rope strenuously and dragging whomever sought to lead her backward through a thorn bush.

She calved in early July, a dark brown bull calf, three-quarters Jersey, and began coming up to the barn to be milked.  It was then we noticed that her hooves were considerably overgrown:  long, turned up at the ends, and with the outer toe curving in over the inner.  As she was at that time a kicker — sometimes the milker, sometimes the bucket — we were not sanguine about our chances of picking up those feet and clipping off the excess hoof without shedding some blood — our own, in all likelihood.   We pondered and delayed, partly because we don’t personally know anyone local who trims cow hoofs, and partly because it wasn’t going to make sense to have such a person come for just a single cow.  It would be more practical to wait until all the cows had calved, then have the trimmer in and get everyone who needed a pedicure done at once.  You don’t want to have cows trimmed in late pregnancy, at least not the way it is done these days:  on a turning table where the cow is flipped over on her side.  With three stomachs and a calf inside there, things can slip around and end up where you don’t want them.

While we were still pondering/procrastinating, an interesting thing occurred:  Sweetheart came in one day with almost perfect feet, just a little overhang left on one foot that was trying to crack off.  In a day or so it had cleaned itself up, and there she was with the prettiest black forty-five degree hoofs you would care to see.  Now what was that all about?  Did her hoofs grow out while she was pregnant (the way my hair does), then trim up when she was carrying less weight?  Was the difference seasonal?  We don’ t know, but it falls into a well-used category of farm wisdom:  sometimes doing nothing fixes the problem.

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