Monday, March 21, 2011
Unlike goats, which give birth very quickly after you see any part of a kid, cows take forever. At least it feels like forever when you're accustomed to goats giving birth. When Mike and I got to the bottom of the hill, we could see a hoof sticking out, but we had no idea if she had just started or if she had already been at this for awhile.
When Bridget had the calf pushed out to its chest, the calf spewed a couple cups of liquid from its nose and mouth. I know all animals have fluid in their airway when they're born, but it's shocking to see so much of it spew from a baby. The only reason you don't see the same thing with goats is because their lungs are smaller than a thimble, compared to a calf, whose lungs are the size of a small loaf of bread. A moment later, more liquid spewed from the calf's nose and mouth, and Bridget stood up with the calf dangling from her back end. It all looked so violent, I had to keep reminding myself that it was okay. Hanging him upside down like that meant that all that fluid could drain out of his airway.
So, we went for the alfalfa cubes again. Mike picked up the calf, and Bridget followed us, munching on alfalfa cubes and keeping a watchful eye on Mike and her calf.
I think this calf is also polled. At least I don't feel any horn buds yet, so odds are good. He is also very sweet and friendly, always coming up to me in the barn and rubbing against me. Unfortunately, it is not a slam dunk that these little guys will be sold as bulls, even though polled bulls are in demand. A few years ago, a genetic condition called PHA in was discovered in Irish dexters. I made a point of buying a PHA-negative bull, and if these boys are PHA positive, they should become Stew and Chuck. I'm going to get the cows tested, so I'll know in the future if I have anything to worry about, and I'll also get the two boys tested as soon as possible, so the mystery will be over. PHA is a lethal gene, so if a calf gets the gene from both parents, it will abort at some point in pregnancy or be stillborn. Both of the calves are so friendly, they'd make lovely herdsires but the easiest way to overcome this condition is to eliminate the carriers in the breed, and because bulls can have so many calves compared to cows, the standards are pretty tough for them.