Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's a boy!

Finally, Riona (our Irish Dexter first freshener cow) delivered us a bull calf today... only eight days overdue!

I noticed her off by herself being restless about 10:30am this morning. By 11am she was beginning to have hard contractions. I went out into the pasture to be near her but not too close and watched for about 30 minutes. She was having contractions about every 2 minutes or so. I had to go back up to the house to check on the kids but returned 45 minutes later (about 12:15pm) to find that she had progressed enough that I could see two little hooves had emerged!

As this was her first calf I am sure she was a little confused with what was going on. She kept walking around, especially during contractions. I'm sure it helped with the pain and moving the calf along in the process. She was being pestered by our 8 month old bull calf, Chuck. He followed her around everywhere. By 12:45pm Riona was lying down during her hardest contractions and again Chuck was right there licking her head. After she got up and down a few more times I noticed that Chuck had figured out that Riona was lactating and was using her as a milk bar while she was pushing... how rude! I decided it was time I got more involved then just watching from a distance so I moved in to keep Chuck away from her (well at least her udder). It was only two more good pushes and at 1:03pm the calf was delivered!

As I expected, and the main reason I wanted to be with Riona when she calved, was that as Riona got back to her feet our boss cow Cherry Blossom (Chuck's mom) moved in between Riona and her calf. CB loves the babies and would have prevented Riona from returning to him if I had not been there. So while I was checking the calf over Riona moved away about 30 feet and watched.

Since Riona delivered him lying down he never was hung head down during the delivery. This is an important thing as when they are head down hanging from mom during delivery the fluid in their lungs is expelled through their mouth and nose. So, immediately after he was born I cleared his nose and mouth of any membranes and lifted him by his back hocks and hung him for 3-4 seconds. Then I rubbed his rib cage to stimulate him to breath and took a peak to see if it was a heifer or bull calf. Meanwhile CB had been licking him off or trying too with all my fussing with him. So, I picked the slimy little guy up and took him over to Riona, who seemed very pleased to have him back and started cleaning him off right away.

I let Riona bond with him for about 15 minutes all the while scooting off Cherry Blossom and Chuck (who was still trying to nurse from Riona). We were all on the far side of our five acre pasture, it was cold outside enough that we could see our breath and the calf was starting to shiver so I picked the little guy up (thank goodness for mini breeds as he was only about 40lbs) and headed to the barn. I had hoped that Riona would follow me up but she didn't budge a bit. So, up at the barn I got the calf settled into the dog crate that had straw already in it (from our canine visitors earlier this week) and covered him over with a heavy towel. Then I grabbed a lead rope and went back down for Riona.

I needed to keep Riona and the calf away from Cherry Blossom and Chuck, at least for a few days until they bonded well, so I moved Riona into the female alpaca pasture. This has the added benefit of having the largest area inside the barn with lots of dry straw to help keep the little guy warm. Once reunited Riona was very pleased and become quite protective of him with the LGDs and alpacas, not letting them come close to check him out. I stayed out in the barn with them until I was comfortable that everyone was going to get along. Also, I wanted to stay until the calf got up to stand and nurse for the first time. That happened about 2:15pm.

I returned to the barn to check on things around 3pm. The calf was resting at first but after a few minutes got up to nurse again. By 3:30pm Riona had past the placenta which the dogs quickly disposed of for her. It might seem a bit disgusting to let the dogs do this but it is part of their "job". Livestock guardian dogs instinctly remove anything from the pastures that would produce a scent that would attract predators. This is especially important around vulnerable newborns that would be easy prey to coyotes.

My final check down at the barn was at 9:30pm. He was up and nursing again... strong little guy. I am a bit worried about him getting chilled tonight but hopefully he will stay in the barn and not wander outside. I am not sure Riona would know to bring him back inside.

With all that went on today I also had to deal with totally frozen water lines to the barn. I had to tote water from the house at least three times today. It will be a long winter if I have to do that everyday. Hopefully this weekend Neil can figure something out to insulate the hoses.

The chickens gave 15 eggs today but after I collected them I forgot them outside and they froze.

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