Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's a boy!

Matilda had her calf today! A sweet little bull calf.

For the last week we've kept a sharp eye on her. We didn't want the calf born in the woods so we pulled Matilda into the driveway area around the house so we could watch her more closely. The poor dear was terribly swollen and misshapen, with this massive beach ball of an udder between her legs. Unlike Dexters, Jerseys get all bent out of shape just before giving birth.

I've been keeping her pen clean and padded with extra straw, since we didn't know when it would be required at a moment's notice.

But meanwhile nothing was happening. I'd check Matilda at least every hour, but nothing doing. Trouble is, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my busy days, when I'm away from home for most of the daylight hours. I just knew Matilda would have the calf when I was gone.

But I was wrong.

Around noon today, Don and I were upstairs talking about the clothes drying rack when I heard a low moo below the deck doors. I couldn't see Matilda from where we were, so we went downstairs and saw her right by a window. Her tail was kinked up and her vulva was twitching - and she kept giving low moos. "This is it," said Don.

So I made sure her pen was clean and pulled her inside. It was a chilly day and snow was flying, so the pen was a nice refuge. Here her tail is still kinked up...

...and her back is hunched, classic signs of a cow in labor.

When I checked on her half an hour later, this is what I saw:

The proper presentation for a calf is the two front hooves first, followed by the nose and head, then the rest of the body. These two protruding hooves meant things were progressing normally.

Shortly thereafter she lay down and rested for a few minutes.

Notice the preoccupied look on her face. (Sorry her eyes are white - it's the flash.)

Another good push brought out the rest of the front legs and most of the head. Notice the amniotic sac is already torn.

Then she heaved herself back to her feet and turned around. The calf's head and ears are out.

After this she lay down again to finish the job.

Slorp! He's out.

Matilda immediately set to work licking him to life. The licking accomplishes three critical purposes: (1) it cleans the calf; (2) it stimulates the calf's circulation; and (3) it familiarizes the cow with her calf's unique scent.

Within a minute or two, the calf was lifting its head and shaking the mucous from its nose.

Meanwhile the other animals knew something was up, and kept coming up with excuses to hang around the stall gate.

This is Gimli, the calf's father.

Matilda kept on licking. At this point we still didn't know the calf's gender and kept trying to catch a glimpse of the genitals.

Aha - a tiny scrotum - it's a boy!

How adorable can you get?

First attempt to stand.

Crash and burn.

Younger Daughter couldn't resist a touch. (Older Daughter vows to adopt someday.)

Matilda is dripping with colostrum.

The girls and I couldn't wait for the calf to fully get on his feet because we had to leave for the city. But in the evening after we got back, we saw that he was nice and dry, and Don says he's been nursing healthily.

No name yet, though Younger Daughter is favoring "Thor" (we've been studying the Germanic tribes which invaded early Europe) because Don is thinking he might train him to pull weights (a plow, a cart, whatever) rather than going into the freezer, in which case Thor would be an easy name for the calf to learn while learning commands.


  1. How precious! Congrats to Matilda (nice job Mom) and the entire family.....What a cutie, and I'm glad it all went smoothly for Mom and "Maybe Thor"........The simple fact he was insistent he make it, against the odds - he is a warrior and will undoubtedly be a strong worker......

  2. Congratulations! And a great series of pictures too.

    Jeff - Tucson

  3. Cute little guy! Matilda is a great momma. Yeah, having a beast of burden is a good idea, especially if the time comes - and it may be soon - when we can't get oil due to a blockade of the Suez Canal and gov't has no interest in drilling for our own oil.

    Thor, have a long and happy life and earn your keep (or end up in the freezer).

    Congratulations, Lewis family & Matilda. I'll be expecting a cigar with "It's a Boy" on the wrapper. Thanks. ;) (Yes, I'd smoke a cigar if I had one.)

    Anonymous Patriot

  4. He's beautiful. :) Good job, Matilda.

  5. Congratulations!
    I'm with Don - he looks like he'll make a fine ox :-)

  6. Congratulations! Glad that all went so well. The pictures are great.

  7. Congratulations!! Always fun to have a new member of the family! We've got 2 due this spring so I understand you're excitement!!

  8. Oh, and those hooves look SHARP. Ow.

  9. Well, I was wrong about the gender! But what a lovely little bull! Love the name Thor!
    Now in the nail-biting waiting sequence for our doe, Patches, to have her first kid here. She is four days overdue, but we are assuming that is because of the winter storm we had.

  10. So cute! I think that Thor is a great name =) Congratulations!

  11. Congratulations! I'm glad he arrived safe and sound.

  12. Congratulations! Praise the LORD all went well. Thor sounds like a great name for an oxen. Start teaching him gee and haw.. and especially whoa! I'll bet that it is a much different experience than training a horse. Have fun.

  13. Awww! He looks just like his daddy! Thanks for all the pictures...I've always wondered ;)

  14. Wow, he is cute! Thanks for the great pictures!


  15. No Pain and Great Gain!!

    Only a woman suffers pain in labor according to the Bible;

    Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. Genesis 3:16

    Tremendous pictures!

  16. Wow he looks just like his dad...he is absolutely gorgeous.

  17. That's just great! We have our cows close to our house so we can watch them calve. I just love to watch! But, like your oldest, I'm not going to have kids either.lol

  18. Congratulations on the new addition to the family. Nice job, Matilda.

  19. I also say congrats to you Patrice. This is a peculiar breed of a cow that completely fooled me. In my neck of the woods ranchers have to go to great pains to be there during the delivery. Matilda is a tough independent cow. Great photo work by you Patrice.

  20. And how is little Pearly taking to this new addition? Has she been weaned or is she still nursing? How is that going to work out?

  21. Actually Matilda has been sequestered in the barn so the rest of the herd hasn't seen the calf face-to-face yet. Pearly misses mama but is adjusting. She weaned herself several months ago so that's not a problem. We'll keep Matilda and Thor in the barn a few more days until we can castrate and dehorn Thor, probably this weekend.

    - Patrice

  22. WOW he is so cute, just like his dad. I showed my daughter the pictures of a cow giving birth and she was intrigued and yet went eww a couple of times!

  23. Oh my ! The gift of birth is so amazing.

    How much do you think the new calf weighs? How quickly will it increase in weight? Does it just take milk and for how long?

  24. Congratulations! I'm taking care of the grandsons while awaiting the arrival of the granddaughter later in the morning. Since it is a cold, nasty, rainy evening, naturally the first lamb of the season was born from a ewe that wasn't sufficiently bagged up enough for me to notice lambing was imminent. I don't have a separate place prepared for mother and baby as I wasn't expecting any arrivals for another two weeks, so I'm checking to make sure they're okay every couple hours.

  25. Really amazing photos! Thanks for sharing!