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.


  1. Way to go, Sasha! I'm sure she is very relieved to finally have that over with - poor thing. And with all these new arrivals, I'll bet your peaceful little farm is buzzing with critters who are glad it is spring!


  2. Anonymous8:03 am

    isn't that colostrum, not milk?

    Always great when things go well with both mum and baby! Hope you get ots of milk and happy times with the new cow.

  3. Yes, the first milk is called colostrum ... it's still 'milk', but this is the stuff high in antibodies and fat, the essential nutrients for a new baby bovine. Without it, calves don't get the antibodies they need and they can die very easily.

    It's a very tricky balancing act in the early days - you have to make sure the calf gets as much as he can drink, but if the cow is really full, she can get mastitis if the pressure isn't relieved - or she can be so uncomfortable that she'll kick the calf off so he can't nurse, which will just make matters worse. So, the humans in the picture can help out by easing the pressure, but you have to be sure that the calf gets plenty to drink ... especially in those first few days. I believe I saw the recommended quantity listed as "half a gallon to a gallon within the first day" - if the calf won't nurse directly, you need to milk the mama and bottle feed the calf, basically, you do whatever it takes to make sure he gets it.

    Luckily for us, Sasha's calf was up and nursing within 3 hours of birth, and we have watched him getting regular drinks from his mama. She's still pretty full so we are helping her be comfortable by easing off the pressure on the quarters that the calf hasn't been drinking from ... with luck, he'll start doing the 'work your way around all four' thing very soon and then mama Sasha will be much more comfortable!

  4. Well isn't that lovely. I'm sure you're all relieved that Sasha has had her calf and you've got one less to worry about. Lovely calf...too bad not a heifer but maybe you want another "Sir Loin" as I often call our butcher steer.
    Are you done lambing also?

  5. Oh yes, Wind n Wooly, we are hugely relieved! With a cow, you get one shot - no calf, and that's it for a year. So it's a great relief to have him on the ground and nursing well ... he's improved lots now that the engorgement has passed for his poor mama.

    We're calling him Ewen MacDeepFreeze - as an Irish Dexter, we figured he should get some kind of Celtic name. And since his destiny is known ... his clan is obvious!

    Not done lambing yet ... Still waiting on the escape artist, who is hollering and demanding room service and NOT lambing. Turkey.


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