Oh, ya know, just helping to bring new life into the world over here on the farm. No big deal, right?!
Actually, it was a H U G E deal for me. Not only because it was my first time helping deliver a calf but because there was something so beautiful about it all.
Earlier in the fall B2 (the 11y/o) and I went to the Ottawa Valley Simmental Club Harvest Sale. I toured the lots, spoke with consigners and narrowed our choices. I can hear one of my best girlfriends right now: Once again, one of the things I never thought I would hear you say. There we – which later became he – raised our bidding number and were successful in purchasing a sweet, calm full-blood Simmental (beef). Lorolin Dixie made her debut to Pana-Len Percherons and Pana-Len Farm on October 14, 2017.
We knew she was bred but weren’t exactly sure of her due date. She had been AI’ed (artificially inseminated) by ACS Red boomer on the best day of the year – April 10 – before being exposed for the month of May.
What’s the secret to knowing when a heifer or cow will calve? Patience. Patience. Patience. But there are a few signs.
Early January we started to keep a close watch on Ms. Dixie as this would be her first calf. She started bagging up. In other words her udder started to grow. This process starts well in advance of delivering but closer to the date you notice rapid growth.
Her pelvic ligaments had also started to relax. Visually what you see is protrusion of the hips as they become more defined as the heifer or cow prepares for birth.
The Tuesday before Ms. Dixie delivered she dropped her cervical plug. I’ll spare you pictures and descriptions of this. Most people would think that a calf would be imminent but a plug can drop up to two weeks before birth.
Our small but mighty herd remains outdoors year round. We check on all of the cattle daily but more frequently as new calves are on the horizon. It was time to bring Ms. Dixie indoors Sunday as her teats had strutted (sticking out on an angle) which is as close to the ultimate sign as you can get. Because our winters in Metcalfe, ON can be so harsh the survival rate of a new calf is higher indoors than outside in the minus bazillion temperatures.
The Babe left the house at his usual time – 5:30 am – on Monday. By 5:35 am he was back changing out of his work clothes into barn attire. I knew it was time. There’s the voice of that girlfriend again: another thing I can’t believe you did – got out of bed before the crack of noon.
As this was Ms. Dixie’s first calf, we stayed close while giving her space to deliver on her own. After a couple of hours of contractions, pushing and being completely exhausted, it was time to help her. The Babe and his dad attached two lead shanks around the calves front hooves which had been out for about three hours. The Babe ensured the calf’s head was next.
As they heaved and the head came out, I quickly moved into the pen. The calf was equally exhausted as mama from being in the birth canal for that long. It’s amazing how instinctual creatures are even when they have never done something before. I immediately began cleaning out his mouth to ensure a clear airway then vigorously moving his head to stimulate his senses.
The Babe and his dad continued to pull as I worked on his breathing and getting his sucking reflex active. That’s when the rest of this loooong BIG calf came out and we learned we had a new…
Mama took naturally to her new role. She nuzzled and cleaned him immediately then worked to get Fadi standing up.
After he was up and bucking around, I reflected on the entire, beautiful beginning of this new life. From the journey to our farm, the commitment B2 has made to caring for his animals, to the instant bond of creatures (including me), it is a reminder of just how precious life really is.