We had been excitedly preparing for Creme Brûlée’s labor, knowing that it would happen between the dates of April 26 and July 4. Creme was bred by a bull, and while the window of insemination was clear, the exact date was not. So, over the past few months we watched her udder fill, checked her pin ligaments, and watched her vulva, but didn’t really expect her to give birth so soon! (Okay, full disclosure – there was mucus on Thursday, but Creme seemed so NOT in labor, that we went to bed not really thinking there would be a calf by morning!)
From the wet, floppy look of the calf, and the fact that we witnessed Creme Brûlée pass her placenta, we just missed the birth (probably a good thing, as I tend to over-empathize with the laboring animal and remember too viscerally my own labors!). There is nothing quite so profound and awe-inspiring as birth, and we were filled with giddy glee.
This was Creme’s first birth, and she has handled the role of motherhood beautifully. She attentively licked her calf clean, ravenously gobbled her placenta, and sounded her unique Mama Cow moo. And the calf seemed to respond at first, butting tentatively and slurping down a bit of colostrum.
But then things got a bit scary. Whether it was due to the cold temperatures of the morning, or a long, hard birth, or some other cause that we might never know, the calf began to visibly weaken. She lay flat out in the pasture, did not attempt to stand or nurse, and began shivering. I knew how important it was for her to drink colostrum in the first few hours, and the clock was ticking. Despite our attempts to connect her with the teat, offer a bottle, and rouse her, she just would not nurse.
Thankfully, our neighbor is a cattle farmer, with decades of experience. We called him, and he promptly came over to help us. We decided to tube feed the calf, to ensure that the colostrum got into her belly, to give her strength and warm her up. Honestly, when we went to bed Friday night, I was not sure that the calf would survive the night. We had filled her belly, but she was just so weak.
She did survive the night, and although it took two more days of tube feeding before she would nurse vigorously on her own, each day showed improvement. Along the way, we were given so much positive encouragement from the Homestead Honey FB community; from our neighbors; from Lorinda, from whom we purchased Creme Brûlée; and from my friend Ashley of The Browning Homestead. You all rock.
By Monday night, we were able to suspend the tube feedings, and enjoy watching a frisky, energetic calf.
We named her May Apple. Born on May 1st, the day of our community May Day festival, her name harkens to that celebration, as well as the gorgeous wildflower in our forest. We couldn’t be more excited to help raise this sweet calf, and to venture once again into the world of homestead dairying.