So now that it’s getting cold, all the cows on the local ranches are starting to pop out new calfs. Since I’ve seen the shipping off of cattle to fed, I figured that I should see how birthing the cows goes.
I went with a friend to the ranch again, to help with the birthing. When we arrived we found this little guy in the warming hut. This little guy had been born that night, and with the cold temperatures, they brought him in to stay warm.
Alisha and I tried several times to get him to stand up, while Joe, one of the ranchers prep ed his syringes for giving shots. All the new calfs get ear tagged, and antibiotic shots. This little guy couldn’t quite figure out how to get his back legs to work, so we left him to go do some tagging.
There are several different categories in which the mom’s fall into in terms of how they behave with their calfs. Some of the mothers (usually the older ones) are quite calm when it comes time for their calfs to get their shots and tag. The cowboys can just calmly walk up to the calfs, do their thing, and walk away. Other times, the moms will be a little more protective. In this case the cowboys grab a leg, pull the calf back away from the mom so that they can tag in saftey. The mother will follow a little bit mooing, but otherwise won’t be any trouble. And than you have the ones who as soon as you walk in the pen, know that they are going to be trouble. They paw the earth, and blow air through their nostrils. These new moms don’t know what you are doing, and don’t want you anywhere near their calf. One of these moms chased Joe through a fence, screaming at him. Joe had to pull the calf through the fence, so that he could tag the calf safely.
After tagging 6 or so calfs, the cold got to Joe, so we went in to warm up and check on our calf. He still wasn’t quite getting how to use his last legs, but he kept nosing around the wall looking for an udder to suck on. We brought him back out to his mother.
Meanwhile Joe explained to us how the older mothers like to “grandma” off the younger mother’s calfs. An older mother will start going into labor, and since she’s been through calfing a few times she knows this means a new calf is coming. If she sees a new calf on the ground, she will think oh well I already delivered, and start to take care of this calf on the ground. New mothers tend to be more timid and will give up care of the calf to the older mom. The older mom than gives birth to their calf, and forget about the one they “stole”. To avoid this the cowboys try to keep the older moms away from the newer ones, but sometimes the cows switch calfs for no good reason. Joe was telling us that yesterday they had two moms both decide they liked the other’s calf better. It sounds like you could make a soap opera about bovine relationships.
We went out into the pastures to track down more calfs, but still didn’t see any cows in labor. One little calf wanted to come home with me after getting tagged, despite his moms moos. Somehow I don’t think my landlord would appreciate a calf in my apartment.
Just as we were leaving (literally driving home off the ranch), we finally got to see a cow giving birth. We had to stay far away, as every time we tried to get closer the mom walked away.
I had been discussing with some of my friends the previous night, exactly how a calf came out. I couldn’t quite figure out with 4 legs how a calf would be birthed. Turns out the front hooves come first, followed by the head, the rest of the body, and then the back legs.