The calf tumbled over, head flopping as he attempted to get his legs under control. Blasting wind and horizontal rain was not going to stop this baby. Mother cow Maya chose the ravine behind the farmhouse to give birth. This was a sheltered spot to bear a calf but was far from the safety of the holding pen.
Only nine of the ten cows in the “maternity” pasture showed up earlier that evening when we fed them hay… Maya was missing. Last week I was sure Spring had arrived; silly me! As I drove the ATV over green shoots of grass poking through an inch of snow and ice, it seemed that Winter had returned. My fingers were frozen. Icy rain pinched at my face and soaking wet I had to find a missing cow. When I located her, the calf had not yet been born, but I could see that Maya was in labor. Usually, a manageable cow that could change when a new-born calf appears. I was sure we could get Maya up the hill, past the feeding cows and into the holding pen before the birth, but if the calf were already born a simple job would become challenging.
In the time it took me to drive the ATV down the hill to feed the pigs and locate help, the calf had been born. Friend Trish, husband Bruce and I perched on the steep hillside watching the calf struggle to stand as Maya licked and nuzzled encouragement. We were prepared to herd the cow, but the backbreaking task of carrying a new-born out of a slippery ravine with a possessive mother ready to attack seemed like a bad idea.
We decided that Maya had made the right choice for a nursery. The spot she chose was out of the wind and cushioned with leaves. It was one of the few places in the pasture that was not snow-covered. In fact, two days earlier another cow named Sara, had chosen the same spot to have her calf. Sara was raised by a 4H'er and, unlike with Maya, we were able to lead her and the calf out of the ravine into the barn after giving birth. Over the years Maya had successfully raised five calves, so we decided to leave her and her new calf and check them in the morning.
We now have eight of the anticipated seventeen calves as well as six piglets. Lucky, the sow, is fully recovered and her remaining six piglets were living on the heated porch with House Pig Tazzy. Warm weather finally arrived and we moved the piglets to the farrowing shed. They eat four times a day and now, more than ever, I need help feeding them. Some of you have reached out to me to help but if not, let me know if you live in the area and can help.
After the storm passed last Tuesday, Maya herded her little calf out of the ravine to join the other cows and to eat a breakfast of hay. They made it through the storm without human help. A few days later, Adrianna had a silver bull calf. Once again she gave birth without help. I love smart cows that give birth on their own. Even though we were prepared to help, sometimes less is best.