So about that permanently pregnant cow of ours…
Because Charlotte was so much bigger than Emma had ever been, and Emma had delivered months ago and without us even knowing, we’d been watching Charlotte very closely for the last two months. I was determined not to miss this birth. Plus, I was concerned she might have twins. At first the idea of twins was exciting, but when I realized that twins would mean we wouldn’t get to milk her, I switched to fervently hoping it was a singleton. Not that I could do anything about it, of course.
We checked her twice daily, and many days I made mid-day treks down to the field, just to make sure I wasn’t missing something.
Things we were looking for:
Less wrinkle-age in the teats
Ability to manually express milk
Lack of appetite
But day after day she was the same, same, freaking boring old same: enormous, and with a gradually filling bag and the hilarious, wide-stepping waddle to go with it.
And then, finally, on Saturday morning, there was a change. Instead of standing by the fence gazing forlornly up at the house waiting for The Man Who Brings Hay, Charlotte was hanging out way up in the field, so right away we knew something was up. Her pins didn’t look any different (they had been softening, but the dip wasn’t as dramatically visible as I thought it’d be), her teats were still wrinkly and bone dry, there was no discharge, and her bag and backside looked pretty much the same, but not eating was definitely different.
By mid-morning, she’d stationed herself down in the field and my younger daughter and I had joined her. She was up and then down, up and then down. The birth was obviously going to happen, so we alerted family members.
My brother’s kids were at my parents’ place. “Does [Grandson] have time to get a haircut?” my mom texted.
“Maybe?” I replied, and then I texted my other brother’s family who was enroute to Virginia for Thanksgiving week, and then my mom and dad showed up with the kids (Grandson’s hair half-cut), and my older daughter arrived and then my daughter-in-law and before long, we had a small crowd, aka, A Birth (semi)Circle.
The birth itself was uneventful.
The calf hung out in the sack until it hit the ground and burst open.
Charlotte gobbled up the goopy stuff.
My other brother’s family arrived, and we watched for awhile as the calf, a gorgeous little heifer, struggled to stand and we debated whether or not Charlotte was going to pop out another calf.
For a few minutes we thought she might — she laid back down and appeared to push; just fluids came out — but then she got back up and went about the business of worrisomely trailing her calf who was busy making friends with the humans.
calf’s first group selfies
From then on, things settled down. I considered naming the calf Grace since it was the start of Thanksgiving week (and then the name stuck). We didn’t see her nurse for the first 24 hours or so, but she was zipping around the field like she was jacked up on caffeine so we figured things were fine.
For the last couple days, we’ve been milk training Charlotte and feeding the colostrum to the pigs.
She’s an easy-going cow but getting her into the shed is tricky. She hates the dark, enclosed space, and the door sill made her totally freak: she steps her front feet over and then she’ll freeze and, gingerly lifting one hind foot as high as possible, she’d hold it there, peddling the air, before lunching forward in a rush, and then she’d do the same with the other foot, a surprise move that makes us roar with laughter.
She’s such a gentle cow, though. One evening when we couldn’t get her into the stall, my husband just free-stand milked her — in the shed but entirely unrestrained — with the machine and she just stood there.
This morning my husband finally got the halter on Charlotte (the lack of a halter was more an operator error than a cow problem) and then we were able to muscle her into the stall. Once in, she just stood there, as placid as could be, and I actually cuddled her, cradling her whole head in my arms like she was a giant snuggly dog.
mustering her resolve
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! xoxo