FARMING MATTERS: A late night on the labour ward

A newly calved cow and calf. Copyright Heather Jan Brunt

A newly calved cow and calf. Copyright Heather Jan Brunt

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The other night my husband didn’t get into the house until 10pm. The suckler herd is in the midst of calving, and most of them manage themselves, but every now and again someone needs assistance.

And this was one of those occasions. This was a first calving for the young heifer and she was having difficulty, so my husband had to help out and eventually he pulled out a bull calf.

The trouble is, neither mum nor her calf showed much interest in one other. The poor heifer was exhausted from the labour and delivery, and the calf couldn’t stand up. So my husband moved them into an individual pen and gave the calf some colostrum to help him gain some energy to stand up and suckle his mother properly.

To encourage the heifer to take an interest in her calf, he put some hay over it.

While my husband then busied himself with other chores he kept popping back to watch hopefully for maternal bonding. Happily, the hungry heifer started eating the hay and as a result tasted her calf, and began to lick and clean him. Eventually satisfied that they had taken to one another my husband came indoors, but first thing next morning he was out there to check them before breakfast. Happily the calf was standing and suckling, and the mum was mooing contentedly.