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From the Farm: Some things get old, but this never does

November 8, 2013
By Kerry Hoffman , The Journal

Watching paint dry gets old.

I know this statement to be true. I have painted my kitchen numerous times since we remodeled approximately six years ago. I have had to watch paint dry many times. I have seen layers of pink, taupe, white, and eggplant dry to a different, darker color.

There is one thing that I observe that is way more exciting than watching paint dry.

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I don't think watching this will ever grow old: watching a cow give birth to a calf.

Wednesday morning, after I finished my milking chores I ventured over to the calf domes to see if Steve needed any help.

He was nowhere to be found, which is normal fair.

All the calves were done drinking their bottles of 99-degree milk, so I figured I would go open a few gates for the person that was going to feed the close-to-calving cows and heifers. As I waited for the skid loader driver, which happened to be Steve, I noticed a cow calving in the far corner of the barn.

I found it odd that this particular cow was calving. She hasn't looked well for a few weeks, but we are unable to find a diagnosis. Her udder wasn't showing signs of swelling, which is what is supposed to happen shortly before calving.

But there they were, two little hooves emerging from the back end of the cow.

The good news was, those two little legs were not very interested in entering the world. They were kicking and moving around like Savion Glover doing a thrilling tap dance.

That tells me the calf is alive.

Fighting my urge to immediately get the cow into the stall so we could remove the calf, I observed for a few minutes. Well. The cow was pushing like crazy, but making no progress.

Steve and I decided to help the mother give birth, using the calf puller. I hate using the calf puller. It seems so painful.

So Wednesday morning, little Twinkle Toes (TT for short), entered the world shortly after 9 a.m. She's smaller than average and just a bit more delicate, hence the name. I could just squeeze her every time I see her.

This particular calf wasn't supposed to be born until one month from now, and that makes having little TT alive and kicking an awesome thing.

The mother, terrible thing that she is, wasn't all that interested in cleaning the ickies off TT. She did a horrible job. I cannot believe the mother would send TT off into the world looking like that; all dirty and messy!

Zach put a warm calf coat on TT and left her in the close-up barn, in hopes that the mother would care for her.

After a short trip to town shopping with Steve and Russell Wednesday evening (now that was a joy), I checked on the wellness of TT.

Her nose and ears were cold. No questions asked, TT was coming to live in our basement for a few days. That's when living in an older house, with a cement floor in the basement, is wonderful. Besides, that very day we had started heating the basement with our corn-burning stove. How convenient! (I even checked on her several times throughout the night.)

Because TT was born early, she is lacking the sucking instinct. Therefore, I have to feed her via an esophageal tube. We fill a bag that has a long tube attached to it, with warm milk (from another cow that has just calved) and assist the calf with swallowing the long tube. Once it's inside the stomach we open a clamp and the milk fills the calf's tummy. It's rare for us to have to tube-feed a calf around here, but when we do the calves really, really dislike it.

So TT will stay in the basement for another day or two, where she will become quite spoiled so as to act like a house dog, and then be put outside in a calf dome.

If only I had a better way to keep a growing calf in my house; I would probably do it.

Watching a baby calf get born and grow into a cow never gets old.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net.

 
 

 

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