New day – new set of legs on the hardstanding- four small ones- black. Abbie has produced the first calf of the year, taking me by surprise. A few days ago she was battering heads with the stotts in the brief sunshine – and early this morning she popped out a nice black calf who is now wobbling about among the others, but perfectly competent on his feet. I know its a ‘him’ after getting close.
It is a beautiful morning, but for me the best is that the weather poses no threat to the new baby. His birth fluid has been licked off by mum, working methodically end to end, and there is no new rain to chill him, so he is free to find his way among his older half-brothers. Abbie is not too happy about this, as one after the other the stotts introduce themselves, already inviting him to play. He responds with some little jumps and kicks- a good lively lad even at a few hours old.
Abbie will not stand still while there is so much activity, Unless she does, he will not feed. She needs to stand for him while he blunders around the underside of her belly, between her legs, bumping into her shoulder, until finally his pursed mouth finds one swollen teat, latches on and she can release the warm jets of lifegiving milk.
But that doesn’t look like happening- so I must intervene.
Abbie’s attempts to avoid the stotts take her close to the gate at the bottom of the Apron. I run down with the quad, let her out of the field keeping her pursuers at bay, and then back to the shed for some feed to lure her up to the yard
– but she won’t have it.
Nor – for that matter- will he, now slumped in the rushes, exhausted by his first few hours of life.
I reckon this won’t do him too much harm – so decide to leave them alone for now and race the quad back to the yard, with the Nog sprinting ahead once I’ve convinced him that I’ll run him down, yes I really will, if he slows down.
I set up a pen for the mother and child adjacent to the three old dears: Flora, Morag and Moira. Here they can get used to each other, but the older cows can’t interfere with or even bully the new arrival, who can concentrate on what he needs to do: feed.
Doesn’t happen though. The baby is more interested in sleeping than feeding. By the afternoon, if he didn’t feed early morning before my arrival, he has missed the 12 hour window for the first milk, rich in yellow cholosterum, that will safeguard against infection for the rest of his life.
Perhaps I should intervene, but the truth is I would rather hold back, even against veterinary advice. In the main, these hardy, natural animals sort themselves out. My involvement turns a natural event to some kind of emergency.
Little lad is now bedded down on the hay dropped over the gate for his mum. She has been fed, and drained a pail of water,(producing milk is thirsty work) and that is all for now.
In the morning it may be different.