15 April 2009
Sasha's calf arrived!
Finally, after a long, long wait, Sasha's calf arrived!
The Boy went out to do afternoon chores and found Sasha pawing the ground and, in his words "looking like a zombie cow". By the time he got back outside with the camera, the calf was on his way to the world and bingo, it was all done! Fortunately The Reluctant Farmer had picked up the kids early and everyone (except me) was home for the big event and everything went smoothly. Sasha didn't want anyone too near her, and bellowed loud objections to everyone ... but by the time I got home, she'd calmed down quite a bit. And, maybe all the time I spent brushing her and talking to her while she was pregnant helped, too, you never know.
So with my shepherd's crook in case I needed self-protection (mother cows can be very irritable), we got Darth out of the way (he's the yearling who's headed for freezer camp this fall) and Sasha and her baby settled into the barn where it is relatively peaceful (I say relatively peaceful because Cherub the Incredible Escaping Sheep is still penned up in there, and she bellows periodically to ensure that we don't overlook her).
Poor Sasha had an absolutely huge udder: it was so full of milk it looked like it must hurt, and her teats were more than double their usual size, poor girl. The calf could barely get a grip on one of the teats to get a drink, but once in the barn, where Sasha felt calmer, he got a good long drink, with cream running down the side of his face and everything.
Sasha seemed much calmer once the calf settled to nurse, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to ease her poor swollen udder and get a bit of that excess milk for our bottle lambs. I put a rope around Sasha's neck to keep her from turning around and bashing me with her horns in case she disagreed with my brilliant idea, and bravely climbed into the stall with my metal bucket. Sasha just put her head down and ate some hay, had a drink of water, and gave a half hearted swipe or two of her back hoof when I first gripped that swollen teat ... but in no time at all the milk was flowing into the bucket and her udder was returning to a more reasonable and much less engorged appearance.
I got about half a bucket of rich milk while the calf drank his fill, and when he finished, I quit too. Sasha was not bothered by the whole procedure, although once her calf wandered off she insisted on being let loose!
The precious first milk went into bottles for the two bottle lambs who guzzled it down like it was the best thing they'd ever tasted! I'm so glad to have fresh milk for them ... that was the plan all along, but of course, we needed Sasha's cooperation in the matter!
We'll be very careful in taking milk from her at this stage of the game - the calf gets top priority, but it's better to relieve the excess than leave her in discomfort (and risk mastitis). I checked with a very helpful lady who runs a Dexter Dairy in New York and am following her advice about taking care of Sasha and the calf in these early days: we can take a little from Sasha so long as it's not so much as to leave the calf hungry. Shared milking is a great strategy for us!
So we have a lovely purebred Dexter bull calf here ... now he just needs a name!
I hear bellowing outside, so I'd best go check that all is well. I think Darth is trying to figure out why Cherub is in his spot in the barn and he's locked outside.