I was hoping to report our final calf of the season was born last night, but it hasn’t happened yet. The last mama to go is still holding on, fat as ever and waddling like a penguin with every slow step she takes.
This is typically my favorite time of year.
The babies being born is a sure sign spring is on its way, and their antics and energy are most amusing. But, I can say with extreme honesty, I will be glad for the final baby to be born.
This spring has definitely had its ups and downs.
This year, we were expecting nine calves. We lost two of those, one who was much larger than anticipated and was stillborn and the other, which we helped deliver despite coming breech, did not survive the night.
Two days later, the next to last cow went into labor, and delivered a healthy bull calf unassisted.
There were only two small issues. One was trying to catch him for his health check (the expression “strong like a bull” is not without merit). Two was trying to move him back across the creek before dark.
The creek is swollen from recent rain, and we were fearful if the mother tried to move him during the night, he would be swept downstream and possibly drown. While I had him in my arms, I tried to carry him across.
Unfortunately, my boots became stuck in the miry ground while attending to him, so I was unable to move. I was glued where I stood, unless I was comfortable with my boots slipping off and being lost forever.
Just then, the calf squirmed, and I lost my balance. I pitched face-first into the swampy mud along the creek bank, barely managing to keep the full weight of my body from landing on top of the calf.
I even managed to keep him contained enough to make a second attempt. As I was picking him up the second time, I heaved too hard and I went over backward, the calf landing on my lap.
Both covered in mud now, the calf and I managed to stand again.
My husband was able to help get my boots unstuck and keep my balance while wading the creek. But on the other side, the mama no longer recognized the smell of her baby because of the mud, and was threatening to abandon him.
No longer recognizing my own smell over the mud, I understood her quandary.
Later that night, we discovered he wandered away, under the fence and into a different field, while the mother stood and ate at a hay bale.
We locked them in a pen together for a day and, thankfully, she accepted him as her own again.
Hopefully, today the last calf will be born and be healthy. Then I can go back to enjoying the sight of them frolicking around the pasture, carefree. Then I can also go back to enjoying a full night’s sleep.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.