By the time I took this photo at 11.50 yesterday, I’d been watching over cow 506 for an hour or so. She’d been showing all the classic signs of a cow about to calve: restlessness, getting up and down. It was a relief to see her labour had progressed. I came back again an hour later to make sure everything was okay and look what I found! Licking her little one with gusto, she looked very comfortable.
Of course, it’s not always this simple. Sometimes the calf is too big, sometimes breech, sometimes the cow herself has a problem. With 340 cows set to calve over the next few months, it’s an anxious time for us.
To make it easier to keep an eye on our ladies, we do a weekly sort-out, drafting cows that are about three weeks from calving out from the rest so they can get extra special TLC in our calving paddock. This paddock is small and close to the house and dairy. We check it three times a day and, if any of the cows look like they’re about to calve, we hop up during the night to check them as well. Some of the signs are a swollen vulva, mucus, tight udder and unusual behaviour. The reality is though that, despite breeding programs meddling with the cow’s biology for thousands of years, almost all of them calve quite easily.
I hate comparing women with cows but, at almost 36 weeks myself, I can’t help wondering why it seems so much more complicated for us!