Tonight I went over to Kim's place for a meeting of the Save Water Alliance. I turned up half an hour early to take some photos of the new calves which Kim and Peter's Belted Galloways have produced in the last week.
As soon as we went down to the paddock we realised that one of the cows was going into labour. At first, we thought she was in trouble, but, while Kim rang Damian for assistance, in fact we underestimated this Cow, and her instinctive ability to do what she needed to do.
She was lying awkwardly on her side, with the feet of the calf barely protruding. She was very uncomfortable, getting up, moving a few paces, then collapsing again, then repeating this exercise. The time was 7.03.30 pm.Some 5 minutes (and many moves later) she again laid down, and the calf's feet and legs started to emerge. 7.08.50 pmAfter a further 6 minutes, the head emerged. 7.14.54 pm
Once that happened, it was nearly all over. 7.15.38 pm
The calf lay on the ground for less than a minute before it lifted its head for the first time. 7.16.30 pm. The Cow began her task of licking the calf, to clean it up, and to clear the membrane which enveloped the calf (when in utero).
The Cow began enthusiastically licking the calf, concentrating on the umbilicus. 7.17.06 pm. The afterbirth is obvious.
Within two minutes of delivery, the calf made its first attempt to get up on its legs. head raised, and knee bent under the body, taking its weight for the first time. 7.18.00There followed much more licking of the calf by the Cow, including a lot of face to face nuzzling with the calf, which would be important for "bonding". This leads to recognition by both animals, using the distinctive scents of cow and calf. This is a most important process for the Calf's survival. Meanwhile the calf was gathering its strength, and made its first successful attempt to stand. 7.31.00 pm At this point, the calf was 16 minutes old.
And then, once up, and after struggling to stabilise itself, the calf suddenly managed to become steady on its feet. Mission accomplished. 7.32.38 pm. The new calf was greeted very proudly by the Mum. The calf was a mere 17 minutes old. In fact it had not yet suckled, but clearly it was well on its way.
And we all had a meeting to hold, so we left the cow and calf to their own devices. After all, they had managed everything so far, with out our help - as if we were ever needed, despite what we had foolishly assumed.
The sweet mysteries of Life. From labour to being a free-standing calf had taken less than 30 minutes. At least half of that time was spent in cleaning the calf, and that all-important bonding process.