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Posts Tagged ‘calving’

home veterinary: lesson one

So that heifer we pulled the calf for did very well, and nursed her baby like a champion, besides putting pounds and pounds in the bucket, but about day three we noticed, idly, that her labia were not tightening up terribly quickly, and on day five (some us think in slow motion) it occurred to us that her bum looked just a little sore.  Investigation changed that to a LOT sore, in fact, nasty looking, abraded, maybe torn, in three places, and quite infected.  Well, what would you expect from a battered bottom the flies and manure had been on?  This was on a Friday, and I was all for calling the vet and in quite a dither, but calmer counsels prevailed and we made a trip to the dollar store instead.  Hydrogen peroxide comes in a peri (squirt) bottle and those tubes of triple antibiotic ointment are like they were made to order for anointing a cow’s posterior.  Twice daily we squirted where it seemed to do the most good, and gave her a good squeeze of 3-A as well, and by Monday morning she looked like a new cow, at least from certain angles.  In a week’s time she was all better, and we had one more experience to chalk up on the board headed “Learning”.

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green grass!

There are few kinds of relief to be compared to that of the grass farmer when spring green-up finally arrives; maybe the only one would be the sensation of a man in a strange city when he finally spots the door marked ‘Gents’.  We have been holding on by the skin of our teeth for three weeks, feeding the last of the hay, and whatever else we could scrounge, while we held the cows off the tiny points of green that were slowly, oh-so-slowly poking through the sodden brown trash left from our stockpiled forage.  The persistent cold weather and near-constant overcast were not encouraging to those little green shoots, and they weren’t sure they were really welcome on the Beautiful river.

Now we have green!  In just a few days — three, four at most — the rain stopped, the sun shone, and the grass popped and kept popping!  We split the cows up again and put twelve — dry cows, steers, yearlings — on the back in enormous paddocks where they can spread out and graze all they want without hitting anything too hard, and put the four lactating cows in a front paddock where they can walk back to the dairy without tearing up ungrazed pasture.  There is a beautiful brown Jersey heifer calf in there, too, because Honey, the three-year-old F/J cross, calved on Palm Sunday vigil.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014:
A week of contrasts. Three mechanical breakdowns left hay in the field and two tractors out of commission, but there are two new calves in the pasture. We hate machinery, but we love calves. One bull, one heifer. The bull is out of Sweetheart, who deserves a name with other implications – Shaitan or Jezebel, many of us think, would be more appropriate – and we are just as glad not to have to make up our minds about a heifer with such parentage. The heifer is Baby Belle’s, and she really is a sweetheart; we will like having a daughter of hers around. Two more calves due in the next two weeks, but may the gods consign all possessed machinery to the smelter.
The grass is overmature, and we are looking for advice about grass management for milk production. There is a man in PA we intend to call.

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Friday, May 23, 2014:

The phone rang with the sanctus bells at consecration. They rang, stopped, rang again and kept ringing, right through the supra quae propitio, until I was sure that either one of the boys had ended up under a tractor, or the sisters were calling to announce the birth of our expected calf. I made up my mind that if, when I looked at a clock, I found that the phone call had come just at eight, it had been the Franciscans, who would have had to stop trying to reach us at that hour because their own Mass would begin then.
Halfway through our eggs the phone rang again. In honor of the day – Fr. Vincent’s fiftieth jubilee – we named the sturdy black heifer Judith (his middle name is Jude), and established the unifying principle of our heifer names for 2014: Old Testament women of strength and virtue, initial ‘J’. Jemima, Jerusha, Johanna, Julia, Junia – the possibilities are many. Mother and daughter were still in with the dry cows, from where we were to have moved them before the calving but the time got away from us. It is a quarter mile to the front pasture where the lactating cows are paddocked, farther than the calf could walk and considerably farther than we wanted to carry her, so we loaded her into the back of the farm vehicle (shabby green Saturn) with a small child; the first-time mother trotted anxiously alongside, poking a nose through the window at intervals to make sure that her baby was really there. Delphinium — ‘Delphi’ for common use – is shaping to be a good mother, and an easy milker.

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calving

Sunday, April 26:

  Waiting for a rainy evening when our backs were turned, Poppy delivered, without any apparent fuss and almost without seeming to have noticed that she had done so, a beautiful brown-and-white bull calf.  Isabel is more infatuated with it than its mother is, seemingly, but he shows that he is the object of her maternal care by his firm little belly and bouncy stagger.

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Friday, April 26:

   At eleven p.m. thin luminescent clouds embrace the full moon, which is veiled but not hidden behind smears of silver.  Otherwise the sky is deeply clear, and so dark the stars seem to throb.  Three minutes in the green farm car with the pushed-in fender delivers us up to the monastery hill, where lights have been out since bedtime, at a monastic eight-thirty.  When our engine rumbles into silence and the headlights are switched off, moonlight takes over, illuminating without revealing, washing like rainfall across the hillside.

   We who in childhood were afraid of darkness – however and wherever there might be darkness — stand at the top of the hill looking down the shrouded slope to where the woods fold concealing arms around the pasture. Once the night was peopled for us with all manner of fearful things — beasts and monsters and devil’s urchins behind every door, under every rock or bush — now we note the chorus of a pack of coyotes, four soloists backed by a full choir, and raise absentminded thanks that they are here, on the west side of this chain of hills which restrains the Beautiful river like the hand of a strong man on an impatient woman’s sleeve, and not a mile away in our valley making plans to raid the hen house.

  We are here to make our late-night check on Poppy, the first-calf heifer who is due to drop her baby in the next week or so.  We have seen signs that she is gearing up to business, but so far nothing immediate, nothing urgent.  Nevertheless, somewhere down there the cows are bedded for the night, and we feel we must shine a flashlight at the rear elevation of our pregnant cow before we can go comfortably to bed.  We have brought it — the flashlight the light of which is to give us our good night’s rest — but we don’t need it to find our way down the back of the hill to where, close under the eaves of the wood, the cows have bedded down in an informal group, like girls at a slumber party.  Poppy is there, and she is as she has been every time we have checked on her this week; swollen vulva, swelling udder, but no sign of immediate onset of labor.

   The farm car roars to life like an International Harvester at a tractor pull, inviting passengers to consider whether they are more likely to be deafened by the thunderous rumble of its engines, or die a quiet death suffocated by carbon monoxide fumes.  One or two sisters will hear us from their plank beds in the convent and wonder if Poppy is calving yet; it is good to know they are interested.  The drive back home is punctuated by the sight of a fox’s sooty backside and bushy tail sliding under the guard rail alongside Barnes’s hayfield.  The sight is sobering:  coyotes are no match for a fox when it comes to raiding a chicken house.   Come to think of it, while foxes don’t bother livestock, a pack of coyotes can bring down a young calf.

   Perhaps we won’t sleep well after all.

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Tuesday, April 10:

The cows are tired of the barnyard, but it will probably be another week before the forage in the pasture is high enough to bear any real grazing.  In the meantime we have been turning them into the lane for an hour here and there, with little girls to keep them from the neighbors’ yard and from the county road.   Baby Belle had us down in the pasture this morning thinking she was laboring with the long-anticipated calf, but it was a false alarm.  From the house she looked like a very pensive animal, but when she heard the chain on the pasture gate rattle, she got up immediately to see if we would turn her out in the lane for some fresh grass.  We didn’t, but she got a nice rubdown anyway while we assessed her condition, and her baby gave us a nice kick to let us know he was still there.  Only we hope he’s a she.

Yesterday’s rain didn’t amount to much.  High winds this morning probably evaporated whatever we got, and blew the plastic cover off the low tunnel as well.  Now winter has returned for a brief encore; temperatures in the thirties and even a few snowflakes.  We hope the onion sprouts won’t feel unwelcome.

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