Daisy had a baby. Oh, how does one start this kind of post? So much to say! I have been rather preoccupied for the past two weeks, meaning I’ve thought of little besides Daisy, her baby, and when she was going to calve. I knew I didn’t need to be there. This is Daisy’s third calf; in theory she knows what to do. But I wanted to be there, very much so.
I felt confident she wouldn’t calve in the night because I’ve been feeding her in the evening ~ I have no idea why this practise isn’t more accepted, but if you feed cows in the evening, they generally calve during the day. Mike is the only one I know in the area who feeds at night and he’s the only one who isn’t night-checking every two hours throughout calving season! Handy trick for you cow people out there.
However, the only signs I knew regarding the prediction of a cow’s calving were for beef cows. As their udder fills, preparing for the calf, the wrinkles pop out, and when the last wrinkle between the two halves as viewed from the back pops out, you know the calf is coming within 24 hours or so. There are other signs, but the udder is a key sign for “Oh! It is close!”
With Daisy, I had no idea what to look for. Her udder got very full while still maintaining the back wrinkle, but I thought, perhaps, since her udder already had far more milk than a beef cow’s, that maybe it wouldn’t fill all the way before the calf came. So I was on alert. Then her udder filled more and the wrinkle popped out. So I was on high alert. Then the udder kept growing, filling more and more and poofing out the back! Now I know for next time. Baby doesn’t come until udder gets gigantic:
Daisy had her calf at about 6:45am on Friday morning. It was a mild morning, relatively speaking, and it soon became the warmest, most beautiful day of the month. Hallelujah! The calf was wet and shivering immediately after the birth but Daisy licked it off as she should – licking the sac from its face so it could breathe, then its body to dry it off. I couldn’t stand the shivering so I got a towel and a small space heater and used them both to help Daisy dry the calf, using the the heater like a hair dryer and rubbing the calf, then making a tent with the towel, with the heater and the calf under it – a warm pocket until the sun got strong.
After the calf is dry and warm, it is up to the calf to get up and drink the colostrom (first milk) that it needs to survive. So gnarly…. I wanted to carry the calf to Daisy’s udder but that’s just not the way it works. Plus, this newborn weighs about 15 pounds less than I do (that should give you an approximation of how huge Daisy is!) and I couldn’t carry it. The calf tried to stand several times and toppled over ~ I was holding my breath for like an hour. Finally it stood halfway up and I stood behind it, so it could lean against my legs as support, and we just stood there for a while.
After about half an hour of standing and taking a few tentative steps without falling, the calf made it over to Daisy and started nosing around for a teat. It found one and latched on. I was about to breathe easy, for once the calf is warm, dry, and has it’s first drink, everything is preetty much in the clear. But no. Daisy kicked it away. The calf tried again, and Daisy kicked at it again.
I really didn’t think this would happen after Daisy raised the bull last summer – she had kicked him away, too, for about a week, but then adopted him and let him suck, and the rest is history. But Daisy kicked away her newborn. I was SO angry at her…. but then I realized it’s not her fault – she was raised on a dairy farm, where they take the babies away immediately after birth. The mother cows get milked by machines, as usual, and their milk is bottlefed to their babies. So Daisy really didn’t know. And there’s always plan B.
Right about this time, Daisy expelled her placenta/afterbirth and immediately started gobbling it up. Obsessive, single-minded consumption of her gigantic placenta. Yes, it’s very gross but also very beautiful, that this herbivore will eat bloody tissue that came out of her own body to save her baby: if the placenta was simply left on the ground (in the wild), it would surely attract predators.
So, while Daisy was chowing on her placenta, I sat down and started milking, into a calf bottle, which is like a baby bottle but holds 1 litre and has a really big nipple on it. And Mike showed up. So I milked, and fed the calf most of the bottle, and then Mike helped maneuver the calf over to Daisy’s udder while I continued to milk, and the calf latched onto a teat. And Daisy let it drink. She just needed a reminder of the familiar with the introduction of the new, I think.
I may as well add the obvious here, the calf is black. In this land of Black Angus Beef Cattle, my solid white Brown Swiss and Jersey cow (both typically butterscotch brown breeds), who was bred to a black and white spotted Holstein, produced a black calf. Major eye-roll to the gods on that one. But this baby’s coat is not just plain black. It’s black mixed with equal amounts of silver – a black roan. (Which doesn’t exist technically, I just invented it.) I am quite curious to see what this coat evolves into as the months go by.
And then the sun got strong and so, so warm, and Daisy and her new baby and I were able to relax. I left them together to bond in the straw and went with Mike to feed his cows, and sitting in his truck, feeling safe and happy about everything, I felt like I was finally starting to thaw after having been frozen with tension for so long. Mike got out to open a gate and I relaxed against into the seat of the truck and this song came on the radio. One of my favorite songs……. And I realized this male calf’s name is Frisco.
Frisco. For me, the name conjures the image of a burly man with an anchor tattoo and a heart of gold. After knowing this calf for a day, the name fits him perfectly. And it’s a nod to what got me here.