Greetings from Minnesota.
I think we’ve made it through our coldest spell this winter, and things are starting to warm up – it got over 20 today! Things have also been a bit crazy at the farm. I’ve finally organized my thoughts from Thursday evening, which I “affectionately” call the night of ten and twenty.
Ten – the number of calves born on January 20, 2011.
Get it, the night of ten and twenty? 🙂 Okay, it’s lame. Moving on –
Ten calves in one day is truly a tidal wave for us. While we average one to two per day, we sometimes have days where four or five calves are born. But not ten.
The little lady above was calf #7. I think she was born about 8:00 pm, but I can’t say for sure because by that point my brain might have been fried from bottle-feeding so many babies and trying to keep track of which calf was from which cow.
Luckily we’d just gotten a whole bunch of new, blue calf coats, and we definitely needed them. It also worked out that we had both of our part-time workers at the farm this evening in addition to our regular help, which was such a blessing! Thank God for working that out for us.
On this chilly night we kept each calf in the calf warmer as long as possible, and then rubbed them dry if needed and bundled them in a coat.
We try to feed each new calf up to 4 quarts of colostrum, the rich milk a cow gives right after she gives birth. (Read more about our new calf care routine on this post.)
In total, we had eight single births and two sets of twins. I’m not sure exactly what percentage of dairy cows have twins, but I would imagine it’s similar to humans. Twins (and even triplets) can happen, but it’s not the norm.
A hard reality of farming is that animals live and animals die. While we had 8 healthy calves on this crazy day, one of the sets of twins was stillborn. The mama cow was having trouble calving in the morning, and my husband and several employees worked to help with the delivery.
J (my husband) has delivered a lot of calves, and even if the calf is breech or has a leg tucked back he can usually get things worked out. Twins complicate everything further, and they soon called our veterinarian. Once the twins were out, it became apparent that they’d actually been dead for several days. The best we could do was ensure the health of the cow, and happily, she seems to be doing well.
Hopefully this isn’t too depressing for a Monday, but I think life and death is an important thing to talk about. I wouldn’t feel right posting about the cute, fuzzy new calves without acknowledging the reality of the ones that didn’t make it. I don’t think I ever really get de-sensitized to the death of an animal, but I’ve learned to deal with.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have known about death because I saw it on the farm. Sometimes we lost a calf at birth, and sometimes it was just time for an older cow to go. It seems like dying is something a lot of people try to shield children from, and while I don’t think that’s wrong, I feel I’m better able to accept it because of how I was brought up. We could always talk about what happened instead of just pretending it didn’t happen.
Whew – heavy stuff. To wrap up, I’m happy to report the weather is getting back to an acceptable temperature (15 this morning!), and we’re also back to having a typical one to two calves per day.
Feel free to post your comments and questions!