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Welcome to the world baby Hazel

And what a wonderful world it is

First-time heifer Holly is the proud mama of baby Hazel. A cow girlfriend of mine summed it up beautifully by saying Hazel has an elegance about her. I never would’ve thought of putting it that way but she is spot on!

I’m always a little nervous when we have a first-time heifer (a cow calving for the first time) calve. If the calf is too large or if they have twins it can go south pretty fast. I like to wait until my heifers are 2 before I breed them, this allows for just that little bit more growth but even that doesn’t help all the time.

In June of 2019 Owen’s cow, Rose, had a breech birth. Usually, a cow shows some signs that they are close to delivering. They separate themselves, have a lot of discharge and generally act “off”. Rose showed none of the symptoms that typically puts us on baby watch, we went to bed thinking she had another day or 2 to go. The next morning it was clear she was struggling and exhausted from trying to deliver a breech calf overnight.

Lloyd Heron was our large animal vet at the time (he has since retired). He is well into his 70’s and a character! He has so many funny, usually risqué, stories (he really embarrasses me sometimes) about all the weird things that have happened to him as a large animal vet. I’ve known him for a long time and I still don’t think I’ve heard them all (although he has a few favorites he trots out every visit).

First thing he tells me is “that’s a breech alright” then proceed to take off his shirt, and slowly, joints creaking, get down on his knees then sit and finally lie down in the dirt behind Rose. This process was hard to watch. It just feels wrong to allow a half-naked 75ish year old grandfather to lie on the ground, with his arm inside your cow up to the shoulder. He grunted and groaned with the obvious effort it took to work against Rose’s contractions to reposition the calf. I felt like I should get him a blanket to lie on or offer him a drink or something (I’ve lived in the south too long😊). Instead, I kept apologizing and offering to help, irritating the crap out of him. I probably became one of his stories.

He ended up being able to pull the stillborn heifer using a tool he designed and fabricated specifically to unstick breech calves and foals. No surgery necessary! He is a fantastic vet!

Once the stillborn heifer was pulled and our geriatric vet was on his feet (with a little help) I noticed Rose was still having contractions. While Lloyd continued with his story about “the time he was chased across the pasture by a mad mama cow”, a hoof emerged from Rose. Poor Rose, no wonder she was having so much trouble she had 2 calves! Unfortunately, both heifers were stillborn.

It was one of the saddest moments on the farm! To make it worse Rose refused to get up (she was in a lot of pain due to a pinched nerve from the strain of delivery). Seriously! Wouldn’t move a muscle. We had to move her from the field to the barn by flopping her onto a makeshift sled with the help of the camp kids and pulling her behind the tractor. It was so undignified!

The next week Rose threw the biggest pity party I have ever seen a Jersey cow throw, she refused to get up for over a week. We would roll her over every few hours to make sure she didn’t bloat and put food and water within reach. Scott and I would get up throughout the night to check on her and give her treats. I was so worried about her that I had Lloyd came out to check on her. He reassured us that she would get up once her feelings stopped hurting. I though he was being a little heartless.

During one of our group “everyone, turn Rose over” sessions (the camp kids were such a wonderful help) we learned to listen to our vet. Instead of immediately placing her food in front of her I turned around to help one of the kids. Her feed pan was ever so slightly out of reach; the little stinker got up effortlessly and went over to eat! She had probably been getting up on her own for days! Jersey cows, they will be the death of me.

After that I refused to feed her special meals and treats, breakfast in bed was over! She could get up like the rest of them. Stinker!

I will admit that I’m a little nervous about Rose this year with her 2nd calving in a few weeks. I will be watching her like a hawk!


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