Our cow gave birth! A month early…and while we were on vacation. 😮
Yes, there seems to never be a dull moment around here on this adventure we call farming. The cow was pregnant when we bought her and the seller gave me a due date. We planned a vacation around when she would be dry (not milking) so that our pet sitter wouldn’t have to milk the cow.
Then, when the cow was vet checked for pregnancy they said she was farther along than they thought and they gave us a new due date. The woman who sold her to us had bought her from someone else, supposedly not pregnant. However, the new due date indicated she was actually pregnant when she bought her so we had to try to contact the person who sold her before she was sold to us in order to attempt to find out when exactly she was exposed to a bull. Well that person had sold their farm and they had no information for us. :-S So we had to just guess on the breeding date and the woman who sold her to us and the vet figured it was about one cycle ahead of the breeding our seller did on her. Well, they were wrong.
We explained to our house sitter that there was a very slight possibility that the cow was farther along than we thought but that it was pretty slim. We wrote down the signs of labor for him. And we called a friend who had grown up on a dairy farm and asked if she would be “on call” in case the cow delivered before we got back. Then we headed out on our 1500 mile vacation. On the last day of our trip we called the house sitter and all laughed and said “looks like the cow made it through the vacation without giving birth!”
We headed home on Wednesday around noon. Friday at noon we were about 4 hours from our house and we got a frantic call from the house sitter – the cow seemed to be in labor. The house sitter had no experience with livestock, or any other animal for that matter, giving birth. But he said she hadn’t eaten all day and was walking around with her tail cocked up. Yup, sure sounded like labor. I called my friend who grew up on a dairy farm and she headed to the house. She called me ten minutes later and confirmed the cow was in labor – with us only 4 hours away!!! She stayed with the house sitter to help make sure it all went well, and within 30 minutes our calf was born without any problems at all.
We were very bummed that we missed it by such a close margin! But at the same time very happy that it all went smoothly and that we came home to a healthy newborn calf.
So here he is on his first day:
A few days later (since it was very cold that week) we let him out of the barn for the first time. He loved exploring and was running and kicking up his feet and rolling his head. It was so cute.
Charlotte has been an excellent mother and is taking very good care of him. We had planned to leave him with her and let her raise him instead of separating them and bottle feeding him because #1 we like to leave things with our animals as natural as possible, and #2 there is no way we would need as much milk as she would make without the baby eating, and #3 we only want to milk once a day. It has worked wonderfully so far. After about the first week and a half we had to separate them at night so that we could get our full milking in the morning because we were finding that the calf was drinking her almost dry right before we got up there for milking each morning. So at night the calf is in her stall but there is a short wall separating them so that they can see, hear and touch each other but he can’t nurse. In the morning we milk out how much we need from her (which isn’t the full amount she has in the morning) and then we put the two of them back together all day. They have both adjusted beautifully to the new situation and the calf is growing and thriving, plus we are getting our milk.
The two older kids have begun halter training the calf (with the help of my husband and I) and he is doing very well with it. All the kids are loving interacting with him and petting him and Charlotte is very tolerant of all of us being around Charlie.
The whole thing has worked out beautifully and we are all enjoying the experience!