I have just witnessed a birth. My first time seeing a calf entering this world and all the more special because it’s one of our own.
We have a few pregnant cows and a heifer on the farm and James and I have been playing the guessing game as to which will drop first. My bets were always on Kayla, the heifer, as she has the most enormous udders. But that’s not always a good measure to use as we have learnt our heifers tend to show far more engorged bags than cows do prior to calving.
We also look at how soft they become around the back end. This area begins to loosen and droop a few weeks prior to calving. It has become particularly prominent in a couple of cows and Kayla these last few days.
Then there is always the guide that the vets give, as well as our own records. We keep track of when the Bulls were first put in with the girls and when they were taken out. This gives us a window of the first and last possible conception dates. Add on the typical gestation period of 283 days and you get a range of dates when calving can occur. We then try to narrow this down with a vet check to tell us whether a cow or heifer is pregnant and how far along she is estimated to be. As our highlands are an unusual breed and smaller than the common breeds, these estimates can still be a little off.
Usually we start keeping a closer eye on our stock from the first possible calving date, just to make sure we are close by if there are any problems.
So back to our exciting news this morning – we have a little black calf born to Sophie and Blackadder. I arrived this morning to find her looking restless, with a yellow mucus-like material protruding from her tail end. My first thought was that she had calved and I began to look around for where she may have hidden it. The paddock the cows are currently in has a large area of tufted grass, making it easy to lose things! After a while I turned round to see she was sat some way away from me and rocking back and forth periodically. She then proceeded to give birth. I am amazed at how easy and effortlessly Sophie made this look. It must have taken all of 15-20 minutes from when she sat down to it being over. No visible blood, little mess and a brand new life on our little farm.
As I am typing this Sophie is busy cleaning her calf. She wasted no time in getting to this and is doing a thorough job. The calf is already making its first steps and attempting to walk, though at a few minutes old it’s a little unsteady and keeps falling over.
Even Deva, who is sat up on the back of the Land Rover with me seems fascinated by the event.