Country Living Series

Monday, June 23, 2014

First calf of the year

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.


  1. "We named the calf Chuck. As in roast" I burst out laughing.


    1. Yeah, me too. Momma looked at me funny until I explained....

  2. He is so beautiful! Love the name!!

  3. More often than not, you can help speed things along if the mother is indifferent by taking a bit of the, "birthing goo" off the baby and putting it on the mother's nose. She will of course lick it off her nose and many times tasting it kicks in the mothering instinct and they'll start licking baby after. Just a tip for you in payment for all you've shared with me here on your blog!

  4. I am so glad this worked out, I was afraid, while reading that she was just plain rejecting him. I had a fainting goat that had twins in early January, only time it's really cold here. She of course had them on the coldest day of the year and totally rejected the second one. Thankfully I was there or he would have froze to death. Anyway, I ended up with a little goat living in my house, wearing dog diapers and being bottle-fed. A friend helped me find him a good home in the knick of time, where they could give him the constant attention he still needed. He really treated me like his mother and when I would be getting settled on the floor to give him his bottle he would start butting me in the bosom, preparing to milk. It was getting a little much when his horns started coming in!!!

  5. I, too, burst out laughing at the name!

  6. Ha, ha. We have a steer in the pasture now named Stew. Last year's steers were Meatball and Big Mac. We broke tradition, though, this year when our Jersey had a bull calf - we named him Cedric the Terror. "the Terror" was added as he gave all of us a heart attack when he got a wild hair and took off at a dead run across the yard, past the manure pile, through the field and to the neighbor's property with all of us, including his momma, chasing after him - when he was less than a week old! When we finally got a halter on him, he planted his little hooves and refused to move. We had to practically drag him home. He's continued to live up to his name since then as he likes to chase chickens and headbutt the baby goats! Hope you enjoy your little guy as much as we've enjoyed ours this spring! Congratulations!

  7. What a beautiful bull calf! Congratulations! I just LOVE Jerseys!

  8. Chuck? I'm cracking up here...what a great name. :-)

  9. "Chuck."


    Great post. So glad it worked out.

    Just Me.

  10. Chuck is what I call some of my grandchildren and my sister's Boston....Why? I just started it and we all thought it was funny.....
    Gordon, my sister's Boston comes when I call Chuck on the phone when I call her in Wis.....Now this sweet baby bull is Chuck...Very funny....He is adorable.....Chuck Roast funny....
    Love from NC

  11. Chuck is what I call some of my grandchildren and my sister's Boston....Why? I just started it and we all thought it was funny.....
    Gordon, my sister's Boston comes when I call Chuck on the phone when I call her in Wis.....Now this sweet baby bull is Chuck...Very funny....He is adorable.....Chuck Roast funny....
    Love from NC

  12. HA HA HA HA! Glad his mom accepted him - he looks adorable, so clean on the fresh grass. But his name keeps his purpose in view - very clever :D

  13. MICHAEL DEAN MILLERJune 29, 2014 at 1:51 PM


    Hey Chuck! Nice to meat ya!