Most of the time Mother Nature does her thing, but once in a while, we have to step in.
Just this year, Jacob and I have started a new tradition on Sundays. He gets up a little earlier than normal to get pig chores done, and then we go to church together. After church, we grab a quick brunch somewhere and then head back to the farm. If I haven’t mentioned it before, Jacob and I actually live in town right now, so I always make sure to have a bag of farm clothes in my car because I never know what he is going to rope me into helping with.
Back at the farm, we change out of our Sunday best into those work clothes, and I tag along with him to do cattle chores or help with any other projects he is working on. Last Sunday, we were chatting about Ashley – a really tremendous cow, but a mean one at that too. She has this thing with women, all women – she just doesn’t like them. Ha! She’s one cow I don’t trust myself to be in a pen with, without Jacob right there with me. She really only is calm around Jacob and will only let him, and him alone, get close to her calves. She was due to calve last weekend, so Jacob was extra attentive during chores. But quite literally when we walked into the barn to start chores, she was in the middle of the herd and I heard Jacob say, “Crap! Ashley’s calving right now!”
Before leaving for church, he checked the cattle to make sure no one was showing signs of birth. She wasn’t at that point, so he didn’t move her to a maternity pen. So, by the time we got back from church a couple hours later, she had progressed very quickly. At this point Ashley was still standing up, and we could just see the front hooves and a smidge of the calf’s nose emerging. Since she wasn’t lying down, Jacob knew we had to move her to a separate, bedded pen to make sure the calf wouldn’t freeze on the cold floor if she had it in the main barn.
Jacob was able to calmly separate her out of the herd to a pen. We waited for about 20 minutes, and she still wouldn’t lay down. By the way Ashley was bellering, Jacob was worried that she may have thought she already had her calf, as the front hooves had disappeared back inside her. A little bit of *calm* panic (if there is such a thing, haha) set in and Jacob said, “We need to get that calf out now.”
Since Ashley had started giving birth, we were concerned about getting the calf out as soon as possible – similar to childbirth. I know I know, I have always told Jacob to NEVER compare me to a heifer or cow, but honestly, as I’ve learned more from him, there are SO many similarities between cows and humans when it comes to giving birth. Because the calf had a very brief exposure to oxygen before going back inside Ashley, we were also worried that it could be born with permanent brain damage, a deformity, or worse. There is always the possibility that the cow would abort the calf, or it could be stillborn. So, we had to step in and assist.
Jacob has the equipment on hand in case a situation like this occurs, which is not often. The equipment is very small – just two handles on two very small chains. What happened next was a little gross to be honest… Jacob had to reach into Ashley via her rear end and was able to locate the calf’s front hooves and secure the two small chains on each of the front legs. During this whole process, I was just standing back watching. I had never experienced a cow or heifer giving birth in real life before, so I was really just there for the experience!
Before I knew it, Jacob said, “Ellyn, come here. I need your help now!” He told me to grab onto one of the handles and just hold steady, downward pressure at a 45-degree angle. Luckily Ashley was still pushing, which was good. If the animal is still pushing, just assisting by holding (not pulling) downward pressure with the chains helps ensure that the calf doesn’t go back in as the cow contracts and pushes. All of sudden, the calf was about halfway out, and Jacob gave me the second handle and said, “Keep pressure! We got it!” And by golly, the calf was born. A beautiful heifer (Jacob was pretty pumped). Healthy, and no issues.
Most of the time Mother Nature takes over and does her thing, but once in a blue moon, we have to step in and assist to ensure the mama and baby are safe. Not only did I get to experience my first calf birth in real life, I got to assist the cow thanks to my husband who wanted me to help! Because I was in the moment helping, I unfortunately did not get too many good pictures or videos. But, I learned so much from the experience and I think Ashley may start coming around to liking me now. 😉
2022 calving continues at HyTest Ag, so make sure to subscribe below to get our next baby update!
Rooted in ag and led by faith,