The adventure turned from scary to scarier the next day when Bill decided to try to bring the pair to the barn, restrain First-Calf Heifer #25 in the squeeze chute, milk her out then feed the milk to the calf. Bill’s plan went south when the front gates on the squeeze chute failed to close, the ballistic heifer rampaged through the opening and nearly trampled me.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
About an hour later, Bill went out to check on her. FCH #25 still seemed to be in the same stage of labor and delivery. Bill decided it was time for an intervention. He herded her to the corral and into the squeeze chute so he could pull the calf. She wasn’t happy about this forced relocation of her chosen maternity site. If she’d known what was to follow, Bill would never have gotten her to the corral!
Bill has a calf-puller, but prefers to use a fence stretcher, a device consisting of a rope and pulley. He hooked up the stretcher. After two or three pulls, the calf’s head came out. Then the stretcher rope broke. He left the chute and went into the adjoining barn to get another stretcher. By the time he got it hooked up, the heifer laid down in the chute but started pushing again. More of the calf was expelled and Bill grabbed its feet and pulled it the rest of the way out.
The calf was a large bull and Bill concluded FCH #25 wouldn’t have been able to deliver it without intervention. He laid the calf out in the corral and released #25 from the chute. She charged out, tossing a few choice moo words at Bill, and began to lick her calf.
Bill went out later to check on the pair. Over FCH #25’s objections, he lifted the calf into a standing position but it collapsed to the ground, too weak from the prolonged labor and delivery to stand, much less nurse. Bill came back to the house, mixed up a bag of just-add-water colostrum substitute, poured it into the two-quart “baby” bottle, grabbed a feeding tube, just in case, then went back out to the corral.
FCH #25 apparently inherited her mother’s lack of tolerance for human intervention, because when Bill approached the calf, she approached him with fire in her eyes! He barely escaped through a gate into the alleyway, reached under it and pulled the calf to him. He tried to hold its mouth around the bottle nipple, but it let out a squawky bawl. FCH #25 responded by head-butting the gate. Bill tried the bottle again. The calf bawled and mad mama answered with another head-butt. Finally, to avoid FCH #25 wrecking the gate and giving herself a concussion, and because the calf was so weak, Bill poured the mixture into a feeding tube bag, threaded the tube down the calf’s throat and finished the whole chore in a few minutes.
When Bill checked on the pair the next morning, the calf was up and having breakfast at mama’s table. He intended to keep them shut in the corral for a day, but FCH #25 paced and fussed so he turned them out to rejoin her friends and their calves. This little community of first-calf heifers is close-knit!