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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Julie the 1st

It was Canada Day and the Farmer and I were just getting organized for a trip to the St. Lawrence, where we had been invited to a bbq with friends.
At about 1 pm I headed out to the barn where my husband was topping up the lamb feeders - to see if he was anywhere near ready to go.
It had been a busy day already: Jim Gemmell, a technician from Eastern Breeders, had been around just after breakfast. Our yearling calf Mocha had been doing the mating dance for a day or so, and it was her turn to be bred.
Unfortunately her dance partner was Big Betty – who was supposed to be already pregnant and approaching her due date. The EBI tech confirmed our suspicions – Betty wasn’t pregnant – but she was in season. So we had her bred again too.
Hopefully, it will take this time. Obviously, we are new at this cowboy/cowgirl thing, and we don’t yet know the signs. Betty came to us pregnant and had a nice bull calf last year, so we know she can do it. My girl is no dud.
We might have built our chute just a bit too wide, so once lured with sweet corn into the head gate, the cows had plenty of room to wriggle around in an attempt to escape.
I kept waiting for the tech to get hoofed but it never happened. In fact, he commented on how calm our cows were. I felt like a proud mama. “That’s because this one treats them like pets,” the Farmer gestured toward me.
The two frisky girls taken care of, we turned to look at Ginger, who was standing in the corner of the barnyard, watching the proceedings with a concerned look on her face. She was so swollen with pregnancy she resembled one of those cows you see in Native American paintings: a perfect square block with legs.
The Farmer strolled over to her and wandered around back to have a look. “This cow is going to calf today,” he reported. I hurried around back of the cow to see what was happening. I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Of course, I had no idea what I was looking for.
“It could be hours, however,” he added.
A while later I was in the house, packing a bag for the pool party / bbq. I had momentarily forgotten about Ginger’s big day. I do that a lot, I guess. So when I found the Farmer, he took one look at my sundress and asked, “Is that what you’re plannin’ to wear to help deliver this calf? She’s pushing.” I trotted back to the house and changed into a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and my pink rubber boots.
When I made it back to the barn, I found the Farmer standing outside the pen that he had prepared with hay just hours earlier. Ginger was lying at the back against the bales, her face pressed into her yearling calf’s side. Mocha just lay there and chewed her cud as her mother panted, sighed and leaned into her. Betty lay just beyond Ginger’s rear end. I was glad we had closed the door to the little log barn, where the three of them are often found snuggled together, hiding from the flies. Those birthing quarters would have been a bit too close for comfort.
“Here it comes!” we coaxed Ginger as she gave a big push. A huge translucent bag slid out on a wave of water. “Uh...there’s no calf in that,” the Farmer declared. I had a horrible feeling in my stomach that something had gone wrong. Just then, however, two little yellow hooves peeked out. Followed by a black nose. “That’s what we want to see!” It looked awfully uncomfortable – giving birth to a creature that was all knees and elbows and sporting little yellow high heels.
“Does she need help?” I asked, just as the cow gave a big heave and the rest of the little black calf slid out - right into Betty, who up until that wet moment had been totally oblivious. “Move over, Betty,” I scolded. Mocha the calf was intrigued. For the next 45 minutes, while Ginger licked her calf clean and helped nudge it up onto its feet, Mocha kept sniffing and examining her new baby sister. I silently rejoiced that our new babe was a heifer and not a bull. We don’t keep the males and I hate sending my babies away...
Within an hour, we were on the road to our bbq. “What are you going to name your new addition, Mrs. Fisher - Canada?” asked the Farmer. She did share a birthday with the nation. With her shiny black coat, though, the calf reminded me of licorice. “We could call her Candy,” I suggested. The Farmer didn’t like that. “Sounds like a stripper,” he commented.
She was the first of our Black Angus herd, born on July the 1st. And so the dainty little creature, who looked more like a black lab than a calf, was christened Julie, the First.

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