This cow led us on a merry dance. Zoe and I had spotted a single, dry hoof on its way out and up the wrong way – a sure sign of big calving trouble. Two front hoofs should appear to “dive” out of the cow, closely followed by a nose and it should all happen too quickly for the membranes to dry in the sun.
Despite her predicament (breech births are difficult and life threatening) and little Zoe’s sage advice, 1063 raced around the paddock like the Artful Dodger. She even paused defiantly for me to take her picture before we set off on another game of cat and mouse. Eventually, we got her into the yards and, 25 minutes later with a lot of help from Clarkie, 1063 gave birth to a stillborn bull calf. We were just glad she was okay.
As in humans, breech presentations are unpredictable and unpreventable. Most calving problems at our farm are caused by calves that are just too big. To minimise the likelihood of difficult calvings, we choose bulls with narrow shoulders and medium rather than large statures. We also mate our maiden heifers (cows who have never calved before) with Jersey bulls. Because this breed is significantly smaller than the Friesian cows we milk, the calves pose little risk for heifers.