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.