*The following post contains images of cows calving*

I know it’s been a while since I’ve last blogged.  We had a very busy May and beginning of June.  May is the time when our crops are planted, so I went from having my husband around to help me with the cattle and calves, to having him spend from 9 am -12 am in the tractor seeding the crop.  It was me, my 2 year old daughter, and my son, after school, checking and looking after the cows and calves.  During the month of May we had 15 calves.  In June, so far, we’ve had 1.  We had a few adventures that I will describe below:

Calving Heifers–a roll of the dice

This year we kept our heifers from last year, bred them, and had 24 heifers (first time mom’s) due to calve.  While some farmers and ranchers calve out way more than that, this was our first year for calving out that many heifers.  Having so many first-time moms, we were prepared to have some issues.  We were very fortunate to have calved out over half of the heifers before we had our first issue.  On April 30th, I had went out around 10 am to check on all the cows and noticed this one heifer, Z53, was preparing to calve.  She was trying to get comfortable: standing up, laying down, walking in circles.  I didn’t see any signs of the calf coming yet (water bag or feet), so I left her for another hour.  This time my husband came with me and we saw feet, but the heifer wasn’t pushing, she was standing there and looked tired.  We ran her into the chute.  I checked her and there were two front feet and a head, so the presentation was normal.  The only problem was the front feet were crossed, meaning the calf had slightly large shoulders.  I tried getting the chains on the calf’s legs, but with the legs being crossed, made this procedure difficult.  My husband tried as well, and had a hard time too.  By this time, another hour had passed, and we knew the calf was still alive.  We thought this heifer was going to have to have a C-section, so we phoned the veterinarian.  It was over lunch, and the vet was still on another farm call, so he couldn’t attend to her on the farm, so his assistant told us to bring the heifer into the office.  We loaded her in the trailer, and took her to the vet’s office.  We got her unloaded and into the maternity pen.  The vet examined her, and after a few hard pulls and the help of a calf jack (a device to assist with pulling calves), realized that she did not need a C-section, which we were very much relieved.  It was a hard pull, but the vet was able to get the calf out while it was still alive.

Vet using a calf jack to pull a calf from a first time mom that is having a difficult birth

The vet examining the newly born calf. He sticks his fingers up the calves nose to help get it to breath and sneeze to expel any fluids the calf may have inhaled during the birthing process.

Learning to do by doing

I have helped my husband plenty of times pull calves from cows that are having difficulties calving.  Never though, have I been the one putting my hands up the cows bum, examining the cow and calf, and actually pulling the calf by myself.  I finally got my chance on the Victoria Day long weekend to do this all by myself.  I found a heifer that had started calving, but wasn’t looking like she was progressing, and I didn’t know how long she had been calving (it was my first check of the morning), so I made the decision to run her into the chutes to check on the calf.  I was able to get her in and I checked the calf and it was still alive.  With the wonderful help of my 2 year old being my assistant, I was able to get the chains around it’s feet to help pull it out.  The whole time I was talking to the heifer, keeping her calm, explaining everything to her that I was doing.  I felt like a cow midwife or doula!  What seemed like forever, actually only about 5-10 minutes of pulling, and the calf was born!  A nice healthy 83 lb. black angus heifer.


The calf coming out

The calf after it was born



I was able to practice my calf pulling skill again a week later when I found another heifer pushing, but not progressing.  This time I was fortunate to have my father-in-law around to help me pull.  Upon examining, the calf was covered in thick yellow-brownish meconium, it had it’s first bowel movement in utero, so it had to come out right away.  This calf was a rather hard pull for me, and my father-in-law lending a hand while we were pulling.  After a few pulls, a nice healthy 90 lb. Hereford heifer calf was born!

Hereford heifer calf just after birth, before mom could give her a "bath"