Country Living Series

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bellows from the barn

I woke up about 2:50 am this morning and heard bellowing in the barn. "Sounds like a cow's in labor," I said.

"How do you know?" Don mumbled sleepily.

I got up and got dressed. More bellowing came from the barn.

"Oh," he said. "Let me know if you need help."

The two heifers who have been tucked in the corral for the last week are first-time moms (by definition a "heifer" is a female cow who hasn't yet given birth; presumably her status changes into "cow" the moment the calf drops) and I wanted them close just in case they had any difficulties birthing or nurturing their babies.

The night was fairly mild (40F) but very foggy. By the time I stumbled into the corral with a flashlight at 3 am, I saw that Victoria had already dropped her baby and was vigorously licking it. I tried to take photos, but the camera flash only picked up the misty fog and made it look like snow.

I stayed in the corral for quite awhile and watched by flashlight. For a long time Victoria danced around her calf in some befuddlement, bellowing and licking, bellowing and licking. Her back was still hunched, and I wanted to make sure she wasn't having twins. But as the night waned and dawn crept in, it was clear her discomfort stemmed from the fact that the placenta hadn't dropped.

The calf (a little girl) stumbled to her feet and began searching for the udder, but Victoria kept dancing away, not quite sure what this strange creature wanted. But 5 am when it got light enough to take photos, Victoria was sorta kinda getting the hang of it. At least she allowed the baby to get some life-nourishing colostrum in her.

Dawn came in quiet mist.

Victoria was still uncomfortable because of the placenta, but she calmed down enough to let this strange little creature that came out of her, nurse. First-time cows are pretty funny -- you can almost hear them say, "What IS this thing?" when this little calf stumbles toward them searching for the udder.

Still hunched and uncomfortable.

But the calf is strong and a healthy nurser.

She's a pretty little thing with rosy rings around her eyes.

By 6 am, Victoria lay down, exhausted. She still hadn't passed the placenta.

Unable to stay still for long, she was soon on her feet. Despite her cramps and contractions, she allowed the calf to nurse.

At 6:50 am, I just happened to be photographing the calf when Victoria hunched once again and strained. I was pleased to see the placenta make its way out at last.

Rather ugly, ain't it?

Here it comes!

Ahhhh. Now she'll feel better!

After this, Victoria perked right up and got down to the serious business of learning to mother. She's doing very well.

Because of the rosy rings around the calf's eyes, we decided to call her Rosy.

Little Rosy is just the second out of eight calves we're expecting this season. Calves for sale in a year!


  1. Congratulations and well done all around.


  2. That was a very interesting post. I think some of us human mothers who know what is going on look askance at our first newborn babies, wondering what they want, what they need. That first picture in the mist was amazing.

  3. Oh, poor girl. I must say that the placenta delivery is the most relieving part of labor for me. Glad it turned out well for her. A retained placenta can certainly cause a lot of issues.

    You are going to have quite the active spring with three little ones running about now. Are any more expected?

  4. I was imagining you frantically trying to reposition a calf in the dark. Glad my imagination was just running amuck. Congratulations!

  5. What is that thing that looked like a bone coming out with the placenta?

    1. No idea. Perhaps someone in the medical field might know...?

      - Patrice

    2. I was going to ask this, too. Was it actually a bone? Or did it just look like it?

  6. Hi. I had trouble with all three of my kids and their placenta. I was told, after the third child of course, that the baby suckling actually helps the placenta deliver. It is something to do with hormones etc. I reckon that since cattle are like humans in so many other ways, maybe this holds true for them too, maybe this is why it delivered after the calf looked like it had a decent drink?

  7. Lovely. :)

    Thank you for sharing. I have never seen this, and will probably not ever get to again.