Sunday, September 7, 2014

Watching Matilda

Our older Jersey, Matilda, is due to give birth some time this month. I want her close to the house when she does so, because last year she was unable to nurse her calf for the first couple of weeks. This was because Matilda's udder is has poor attachment and swelled so much that it almost bumped the ground. The baby couldn't find the faucet, so to speak, so we needed to intervene and bottle-feed until the swelling ebbed (about two weeks) and the calf was able to nurse herself.

We thought about not breeding Matilda any more, but we decided to go ahead for a few reasons. One, Matilda loves having calves. Just loves 'em. Two, she's still my best milker. And three, bottle-feeding the calf (once we got the hang of it) was no big deal and had the benefit of taming the calf very nicely.

So anyway, since the cows are on a neighbor's property at the moment (we lease it every fall), we didn't want Matilda giving birth where we couldn't keep an eye on her. So I walked down with a lead rope to check Matilda and bring her up to the house.

I found her head-down in the grass.

I hooked her up to the lead rope and started walking. Unsurprisingly I developed an entourage of curious critters, wondering where we were going. Leading the entourage was Matilda's yearling calf, Amy. "Where are you taking my mama?"

You can see how bare and eaten-down our pasture is. Around here, fresh grass doesn't grow once the rains stop in mid-June, so even pasture rotation will only go so far. That's why the animals are on an ungrazed neighboring parcel for a couple of months.

Anyway, I slipped Matilda through the gate before the rest of the herd got there. I also let Amy through as well, for company. The rest of the herd bellowed and complained -- Hey, let us through too! -- but eventually gave up and wandered back to grazing.

Matilda and Amy soon settled into the barn and adjacent corral.

Matilda's udder hasn't swelled at all, so she's at least a couple weeks away from giving birth.

This means we'll probably let both animals out of the barn/corral and just let them wander the driveway area until she gives birth. However we'd have to do some buttoning up first (most notably, blocking off access to the barn so she can't tear into the hay bales), so she'll have to stay in the corral a bit longer until we get that done.

We value Matilda's calves and want to make sure her newest one gets the best start in life, including the likely possibility of bottle-feeding. We'll continue to watch Matilda as her date gets closer.


  1. You may want to get some cheap garlic tablets to have on hand to give to her when she calves. It will help a lot with lessening the swelling in her bag. I've used it with goats and cows. Obviously, she'll need a lot more than a goat. If a human takes, say, two tabs, 3x a day, then she ways x amount more than a human, . . . and hey, garlic's so natural, it won't hurt her. You'd want to stop giving it to her about the time the colostrum is done, as you don't want garlic-y milk. :)

  2. Matilda is a beautiful girl! My best wishes for a happy, healthy calf and that all goes well for Matilda's delivery.
    Hope we can find our place soon - still looking but not giving up.
    Thanks for sharing - Bobbie

  3. Wow, that udder sure does hang low! Poor girl. Do they make cow bras to hold her udder up closer to her body??????? One with 4 holes for the teats to peak through would be ultra cool! It might help with the swelling, too. Okay, I'm weird but it just might work...

    1. Yes, they do make them. Not sure about holes for teats though.

  4. Patrice, you absolutely need to write a picture book (does that make sense?). Honestly, I love the pictures as much as the commentary.

  5. I have seen people make bras for cows and wonder if it would help your lovely Matilda.