It was one of those days that is so typical on the farm. I had somewhere to be, and since all of our guys were out running field cultivators, anhydrous tanks and oat seeders, it was my job to check the sheep and cows before I left to see if there were any impending babies.
I had decided earlier that as long as I didn’t have to check myself for impending babies before I left, that I was still ahead of the game.
You know you’re a farm wife when you don’t think anything of running around behind farm animals to look at their behinds to see if anything is hanging out of there.
While in the past I have felt a little like a well-meaning pervert as I’ve checked pregnant farm animals, I’m amazed at how “high-brow” societal norms are for humans under the same circumstances. There are only a select group of women I know who would be okay with people coming around to see if some part of them is hanging out behind them.
Not expecting anything much out in the yards since there had been quite a lull in the action for a couple of weeks, I slipped on my “you-know-what”-kickers and headed toward the sheep barn. Nothing going on there, so it was out to the lady bovines, who were looking quite pristine as they stood around chewing their cuds, looking at me and waiting to be moms.
A glance from the 50-yard-line didn’t show any new calves anywhere, but a view from a more up close and personal angle told a different story.
I got around behind this particular cow, and of course – since there had been no calves born for a couple of weeks, and now I needed to be somewhere in 40 minutes – I saw a calf hoof out in plain view. It was a classic case of “Murphy’s Law of the Farm” if I ever saw one, which is nothing happens until you’re ready to go somewhere.
So I dialed up “1-800-Husband” to see if there were any specific instructions. I’ve seen many pigs and sheep be born, but never a calf, even at my age.
One of our sons came home and took over the midwife role. I was officially relieved of that duty. Had I been the one to do this myself, my relief would probably have taken a much different form especially thinking about possible complications as the process went on.
We got the cow into the barn and let her settle down, while our son and I chatted quietly in the next room, peering through an opening between the gate and the wall so we could watch her.
Our son was tallying up the number of calves they had with this one, and was doing the financial math, dreaming of what could someday be for him and his brother. It’s fun when your kids tell you their dreams.
The cow was only about half settled, about 20 to 30 minutes into it, when our son said he had a lot of other things to get done that day, and decided he was “going in.” It was pretty official. He grabbed the O.B. sleeves and some twine string. I would have grabbed the safety goggles, hip waders, rubber gloves and Saran Wrap and covered my entire body.
You never know.
We then penned her up in a smaller area so we could get her into the chute. She was like a super-sized bagel trying to fit into a bread-sized toaster slot.
“Oh, poor mama,” I thought. I began to feel compassion toward this beast. She and I could have something in common. There have been plenty of times when I didn’t fit in, too.
Going with what we could do, our son grabbed the two suggestions of feet and legs that were sticking out by then, and pulled with all his might, as the cow just stood there acting like it was all in a day’s work. After a concerted effort at pulling that calf into the light of day, she arrived. A nice, big, healthy heifer. And what a welcome into the world, a plop onto the hay-covered ground from about chest height. And the cow remained standing up the whole time to have her baby, barely flinching as it was all taking place behind her.
Big show off.
It’s always amazing to see the instincts of baby animals kick in. Holding their heads up right away, standing within 20-30 minutes, knowing where to look to get something to eat.
It was all pretty mesmerizing until the cow discovered all that “other stuff” on the ground that is part of the birthing process, and started snacking, as farm animals do.
Somehow, my high school home economics class didn’t prepare me for that.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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