The pregnant farmer, her 4-year-old and the breech delivery

At 5pm, Zoe and I checked the springers (cows soon to calve). Cow 535, a very strong cow in the prime of her life looked agitated. Off by herself in a corner of the paddock, 535 had her tail up and could barely decide whether to pace around or sit down. All of this is normal behaviour for a cow about to calve but I wasn’t sure. Nothing I could really put my finger on, just a sixth sense something was wrong.

Having been poked and prodded at my own 35-week exam today, perhaps I was a little paranoid?

After dinner, Zoe and I ventured out in the ute with the heater roaring. Where was 535? Still off in the far corner of the paddock, still pacing nervously, still no membranes. I’d expected some progress after two hours but I didn’t think it was a smart move to try assisting the labour myself and Wayne was in the city so we called Pete the vet.

Mother guilt kicked in. My cheerful little assistant was very keen to be involved but even as we yarded 535 it was already past Zoe’s bedtime. She’ll be tired tomorrow. On the other hand, I told myself, this type of experience helps to build resilience and she was learning lessons about taking responsibility for animals that you just can’t get in books.

It turned out that 535’s calf was trying to come out backwards but had not made it to the birth canal and her mum’s body was not getting a clear signal to push. If we hadn’t called Pete, both cow and calf might have been dead by the morning. Pete delivered the long and lanky heifer calf alive, then massaged her abdomen to help clear her lungs. We moved the pair to a dry, sheltered spot where 535 could do the all-important job of licking her calf dry and encouraging her to stand and drink. Can’t wait to see them in the morning.

Zoe was delighted and rang her Papa to relay the whole experience before falling asleep almost the moment her head touched the pillow.

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