Monday, March 21, 2011

Bridget's calf

Thursday, I was headed out to the barn, and I happened to look down the hill into the pasture. Bridget the Irish dexter heifer had her back arched, her tail extended a bit, and it looked like there was something sticking out from under her tail. I went back into the house and told Mike that it looked like Bridget might be ready to have her calf.

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.

Not wanting to miss anything, Mike and I followed her around for an hour and fifteen minutes. Still seeing nothing but a hoof, Mike decided to go across the pasture and work on the fence. It was getting close to evening chore time, so I went up to the barn to start chores. I came back fifteen minutes later, and I could see a nose. Progress! Now, with each push, I could see a little more of the nose, and finally, eyes, ears, and a whole head!

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.

And then plop! One more push, and he fell to the ground. Bridget immediately turned around and started to clean him up. After learning that we had yet another bull calf, Mike and I went off to do chores while Bridget finished cleaning him up. Then Mike told me it was supposed to rain in an hour or two. Bridget had given birth as far from the shelter as possible, and there was no way that the newborn calf could walk that far, even if Bridget went, which she wouldn't because she doesn't care about rain. I told Mike I would never get any sleep that night unless I knew the calf was safe and dry in the barn.

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.


LindaG said...

Hope the tests come out the way you need them to.
Have a great week!

Mama Pea said...

Thanks for the great pictures! That calf really looks big to have come out from where it did! Good thing Bridget is as amiable as she is and didn't get too excited when Mike took her baby away from her. If the calf had been a heifer, would you have planned on keeping her?

Blondee said...

Magnificent moment captured in photos! Thank you for sharing.

SkippyMom said...

The look on her face in the last picture looks as tho' she is saying "Yeah, so what - I did this. What did you do today."

I hope that he is PHA free, even tho' your pun about Stew and Chuck made me laugh. Sad, but hopefully he will be fine. It looks as tho' you did your homework and he should be good.

Nicely done Bridget.

Abiga/Karen said...

Thanks as always for sharing and the extra info!

Marian said...

YAY! As original owner of Bridget and Molly I'm jazzed about their doings. You go, girls!

Liked your comments, Mama Pea and SkippyMom.


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