Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Waiting for a calf

Bonnie's official due date is a week from today.  A couple of days ago I confined her to the big lot; it's really a shame we can't let her have the run of the pasture, especially in this heat.  She has several cool, shady spots where she spent most of every day; then in the evening, she'd come up by the barn, like clockwork, to spend the night.  
Since her newborn calf ended up in one of the deepest gullies on the place last year, we just don't feel it's safe to let her calve in the pasture.  All the cool spots she likes are within twenty feet of a canyon.  

 In this picture, you can see the hill dropping off steeply behind her.  

And back at the cabin, the hillside inclines sharply in three different directions.  
Those have been her two favorite spots for a couple of months, ever since the heat started.  
So poor Bonnie is forced to stay up close where she has to move around to find shade during the day, as the sun makes its way across the sky.  During the night, she's subjected to the indignity of having a flashlight aimed at her female parts from time to time.  
She looks so uncomfortable.  She gets up often, sniffs the ground where she's been lying, and then lays down facing the opposite direction.  When she's lying down, the pressure on her udder causes milk to drip from her teats, leaving little pools of milk in the dust, drawing flies.  
As for actual signs of impending labor, I've seen none.  Here's a description of the first stage of labor:  

Visible signs of labor may be scant or absent in mature cows, but more evident in the first-calf
heifers. The pastured cow will usually seek an isolated place and vaginal discharges increase in liquefaction and expulsion of the cervical plug. The cow (particularly first-calf heifers) will show signs of uneasiness and pain.
Occasionally she will kick at her belly and wring her tail. Restlessness and a tendency to lie down and get up frequently are also often observed. Stage 1 begins with contraction of the longitudinal and circular muscle fibers of the uterus and ends when the cervix is fully dilated and fetal parts enter the birth canal. Uterine contractions first occur about every 15 minutes, but by the end of stage 1, they occur about every 3 minutes. As the first stage progresses, the contractions become strong enough to cause the cow to arch her back and strain slightly.  In cattle, the normal duration of stage 1 is 2-6 hours, sometimes longer in heifers.

Oh yes, I've seen her act restless and kick at her belly, probably due to pesky flies biting her; and I've already mentioned the frequent getting up and lying down, which I suppose is due to the discomfort of having a belly swollen with calf.  
I just wish nature would go ahead and take its course.   Boy or girl, I want it to be over.  
Here's a little item of interest:  I've put my name in the hat to purchase a dairy bull calf before long; I'm going to try and get Bonnie to raise another calf with her own; she gives far more milk than one calf needs, and Cliff and I use less than a gallon of milk in a week.

Click on the ad to make it larger.
This could turn out to be quite an adventure.  


Marcia said...

My Molly cow calved exactly a week early - across a swollen creek in the farthest away pasture. I had been watching her like a hawk and she managed to fool me! Good luck with the bum calf. I plan to try that with Molly's heifer when we breed her next year as she is 1/2 Holstein and I'm sure will get LOTS of milk.

small farm girl said...

Good luck on the calving. We let out cows in the pasture to calve. But, we don't have any really deep canyons. I would actually like to be there too. Can't wait for pictures. Nothing cuter than a new born.

Vicki said...

Do we get a chance to name the baby? Vicki

Donna said...

Vicki, if it's a girl, no. If I'm planning on having an animal around for awhile, I want to name it. If I have the misfortune of seeing my cow give birth to another boy, I may let my readers name it.

madcobug said...

Be careful putting two calves to one milk cow. We did that once when I got tired of milking and the cow got weak and staggered around, could hardly walk. Had to call the vet which he had to give her an injection of some sort because he said both calves nursing all the time drew all the calcium out of her body. So back to milking I had to go. She was a Jersey also. Now yours may not do that but ours did. Helen

Donna said...

Helen, that's milk fever and Jerseys are very much prone to it. After the first couple of weeks, there's no more danger of milk fever; it usually happens right after freshening.

Julia said...

I'm still working on badmouthing your cow - it's become a challenge!