welcome to the bovine bugle
Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.
Veterinary oddity or Amazing miracle? Merideth gives birth
[A word of caution: The photos and video at the bottom of this blog post show a heifer's birth process in detail. The images may be upsetting to some.]
We had a calf born here at Howmars Farm today. No big deal, happens all the time, right? Aren't cows supposed to have calves, Jon? Well, the cow, or actually heifer, that calved today had us thinking two months ago that she wasn't going to have a calf, or at least not a live birth. But today she proved us all wrong.
The heifer, a small, grey-coloured sweetie I started calling Merideth, had us believing about two months ago that she had aborted her calf. Both Dad and Karen had noticed that her udder had become full and that she was leaking milk. We brought her into the dairy barn and at that afternoon milking we led her into the milking parlor and started milking her. While in the parlor we tried to "bump" a calf in her. By prodding the lower right side of a pregnant cow's abdomen, you can feel the calf inside her if her pregnancy is far enough along. Merideth should have been 7-months pregnant, far enough for us to feel a calf, but we couldn't "bump" one. To make sure, a few weeks after we had been milking her we had Dr. Steve check her at our monthly herd clinic. After examining her, he said that the calf was still in her and that it had moved when he touched it. We were still skeptical, but said we'd keep an eye on her especially as her mid-July due date approached.
The last couple of days I had noticed some changes in Merideth's body, indicating that maybe she really was getting ready to calve. After milking this morning, as I drove Justin up to school for the summer rec program, I noticed Merideth lying off by herself in the pasture. When I got back from town, I put on my boots, grabbed my hat, and headed to the field. When I got close to the heifer I could see the front feet already outside the vulva. I tried to get close enough to help her try to deliver it out in the field, but she rose to her feet and wouldn't let me touch her. I knew she needed a hand, so I headed her to the barn, and Karen helped me get her into one of the maternity pens. In the more confined space, she let me pull on the calf while she pushed. In seconds the nose appeared, and it wrinkled up as it hit the outside world, a good sign. In a couple of minutes the head came through, and the rest of the calf followed easily.
Merideth had a new baby heifer, and she went right to work licking off all the slimy mucous membrane, cleaning her newborn and stimulating its circulation and breathing.
I scratched my head in wonder as I looked at the new mom and her calf, almost not believing that an animal that we had been milking for two months had just delivered her first offspring. As far as veterinary medicine goes this might have seemed quite odd, but here, today, at Howmars Farm, we considered it a little miracle.
Here's a "Play-by-Play" of Merideth's birth process, captured on camera by Jonathan's wife, Karen.
Now watch, below, at Merideth takes care of her newborn, doing what comes naturally to a new mom. The new calf doesn't seem to mind being licked clean by her mother. The new little girl means Jonathan's herd of heifers continues to grow.
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