Usually, I'd hide behind a big round pole in the barn watching the mama sniff at her baby, while dad cleaned all of his gear. The little heifer would breathe so hard that dirt and straw would fly up and stick to the new, wet calf. Eventually the cow would go to work with her coarse tongue, licking off the mucous and fluid, which in turn stimulated the baby calf to think about his first meal. Watching the baby calf stand on wobbly legs and try to find its mother's udder is really pretty funny. Instinctively they know what to do, but sometimes they get lost in the details and look under the neck or front leg of the cow instead of in the back end. But they're tenacious little buggers and eventually find their way to breakfast.
Last weekend while Scott was gone, I was promoted to Chief Heifer Checker. We had 3 little heifers decide it was time to calve, and we had 3 successful deliveries. Luckily, none of them calved in the middle of the night. I figured that it takes me 12 minutes to dress, get my coat on, walk to the corral, check all the heifers, walk back, get undressed, and get back to bed. Not too bad, really. Then comes the task of trying to go back to sleep...
I did learn something though: be sure to close the gates behind you as you take the heifer and her calf down to the barn. You see, I went out to turn the girls in to their dinner (a refreshing main course of alfalfa hay and seasoned with an assortment of wild grasses) and discovered a freshly licked calf right in the middle of the gate. So after situating the rest of the ladies, I headed to the barn to put hay in the new heifers stall and grab the sled so I could drag the calf back to the barn. I trotted down the alley, back to the heifer and her new calf. I bent over and grabbed the still-slimy calf and placed him gently in the sled. The heifer mooed at me, and then sniffed her calf to make sure all was well.
We started the trek back to the barn, me pulling the sled with the calf, and the mama, with her head lowered, following. I only had to stop once to put the wobbly calf back into the sled before making it to the barn safely. Mama was pretty suspicious once we got into the barn. I opened the gate to a pen and helped the calf out of the sled, turning around just in time to see Mama bolt out of the barn. I ran to the door to watch Mama run as fast as she could back to the place where she last had her calf. AAAargggghhh!
To make a long story short, I finally convinced the heifer to return to the barn via another route, through another set of gates, which I made darned sure I closed behind me each time we passed one. I still had to talk pretty hard to get her into the pen without escaping. I usually get chilled enough that I have a hard time warming up when I get back into the house, but not this time. I was breathing hard and working up a sweat. Who knew that calving could be such a good aerobic work-out? (Although "Sweating with the Heifers" may be a little tough to market as an exercise video....")
We've had a week's hiatus from any calves, which has turned out pretty good since we now have 6 inches of snow on the ground and it was below zero this morning. I am looking forward to warmer weather and trips on the four wheeler and to the pasture to check on and tag the 3 year old's calves. Tomorrow will be the 1st of March... thank goodness our below zero days are numbered!!