Calving season was intense this year. One cow was ‘open’ meaning she must have slipped her calf sometime during the winter, likely early on because we saw no sign of a calf. We were supposed to start on or near April 11 but by then we’d had 4 calves and by the end of the first cycle, 3 weeks, we’d had 36 of the 39. A week later they were all here. Some years it can take 2 to 3 months for the whole herd to calve. It’s a good thing to finish fast.
There was another, even better surprise. The morning of April 29 I went out as usual around 5:45 and as I crossed the bridge over the creek I noticed Jenny standing off a bit by herself. Before I got to the gate to the pasture she saw me and bawled then turned immediately and headed for the barn. So, I thought, it’s today.
She had been antsy for a couple of days and this isn’t the first time she’s come and asked in to calve, but something wasn’t right. Usually Jenny lays down and has her calf fairly quickly and with no fuss. This time she paced and bawled and paced and looked very uncomfortable. By the time she finally laid down we had already decided we should check to see what was going on.
We put Jenny in the maternity pen designed specifically for checking birthing cows and pulling calves. Les put the long plastic glove on his arm and went in to have a feel. “There’s feet,” he said, “four of them.”
Four feet. Two too many. There’s supposed to be two front feet and one head.
“Back or front?” I asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.
“Don’t know. Well, two front and two back I think but hard to say who’s who.”
Perfect. Meanwhile Jenny was chewing her cud and staying cool.
John, our friend and neighbour, is a dairy farmer and an incredible cow midwife so he and his son Justin arrived soon after we called. It took John a half a second to figure out there were twins but it was a bit of a tangle even for him. As it turned out Prunella was on top facing the wrong way and Clifford was under her facing forward with his feet in the birth canal and his head down, it hadn’t come up with the feet. That’s why Jenny wasn’t pushing.
So, very gently John and Justin attached chains to Pruny’s back ankles and with a swift tug she was out and in their arms, tiny but in good shape.
Then there was Cliffy. He was still in his sack so John broke the sack and pushed the little guy back in an effort to make room to get his head up. The chains were already on his feet and as soon as the head came up into the canal Jenny gave an enormous heave. Cliffy was out in a flash. Catch number two. Bonus.
We kept them all in the barn for a week until we knew they were working well together and that Jenny was alright.
The twins are almost always together and we give them each a top up every night after supper. Jenny doesn’t seem to mind and it’s a bit of an event for the other calves who come to watch, licking their lips. And it’s a nice way for us to enjoy this land and these animals.