About a week ago, I looked at Polly's backside and decided she was so broad in the beam that giving birth was imminent.
So to her annoyance, we tucked her into the corral, which has access to the barn for shelter.
She wasn't overly pleased by this, but whenever possible we prefer calves to be born close to home (rather than down in the woods or somewhere in the pasture), since we usually have to either dehorn or castrate a young calf within a few days of birth. Plus it safeguards the baby against predators.
We tucked Petunia, Polly's yearling calf, in the corral with her for company. The animals settled in.
Polly complained a lot when we scooted the rest of herd out of the woods and down to the pasture. Wait for me! I wanna go too!
Days went by and we began to wonder if we should just let Polly and Petunia down with the rest of the critters. But then yesterday morning around 5:15 am I checked in and this is what I saw:
I noted the amniotic sac but didn't see the tiny hooves poking out inside the sac, so I thought I had more time than I did.
I went into the house for ten minutes -- ten minutes tops! -- and when I came back out, this is what I saw.
Delighted as I was with such a quick and uneventful birth, I soon noticed something was wrong. Polly was ignoring the calf. She wasn't licking it at all, not even a bit.
Licking is important for newborns for three reasons: it cleans them, it stimulates their circulation, and it familiarizes the mother with the calf's unique scent. But Polly was having none of it.
This surprised me, since she did such a wonderful job with Petunia, her first calf.
She wasn't acting hostile, just... indifferent.
This concerned me enough that I dug some first-day colostrum out of the freezer (from last year when Matilda was unable to nurse Amy) and defrosted it, just in case I needed to bottle feed.
Meanwhile, I saw a tiny scrotum. A bull calf.
Indifferent mama or not, this little boy was determined. Within a few minutes he staggered to his feet...
...which lasted about ten seconds before he crashed.
Concerned that he wasn't getting cleaned off, I got some rags and wiped him down a bit.
Meanwhile Polly ate breakfast with an apparent complete lack of interest that she had a new baby.
Ah... but this little bull calf had more strength of character than I was giving him credit for. He struggled once more to his feet...
...and stumbled with great determination straight for Polly. He wanted breakfast, indifferent mama or no! (By the way, doesn't it look like Polly is an emaciated skeleton? I assure you she's not. That's just the way Jerseys are built -- all skin, bones, and udder.)
Despite Polly's continuing indifference, he persisted. Calves take a little while to get the hang of things, and this tiny boy spent a lot of time gumming Polly in various places.
He even tried Petunia, who would have none of it.
So he tried mama again.
Polly still acted aloof, but thankfully not hostile.
So near and yet so far!
I think I got a clue as to why Polly was behaving as she was. She hadn't yet passed the placenta, and she was in acute discomfort as a result, with cramps and contractions. She her arched back? That's a contraction.
Last year, our cow Victoria did the same thing when she birthed Rosy: acted skittish and restless until she delivered the placenta. Then she settled right down.
We went to church, and by the time we got back the little fellow was dry and looking seriously adorable.
Polly had passed the afterbirth and was much more relaxed and attentive.
And my goodness the calf had turned into a vigorous nurser! Making up for lost time!
Then, when his little belly was full of warm colostrum, he drowsed in the sun.
So all is peaceful in the barnyard once again.
We named the calf Chuck. As in roast.