There are a few things that strike me as this new calving season gets under way.
Indeed, they apply to any busy time of farming activity whether you are a contractor, livestock farmer or tillage farmer. The sun comes up every day and, with it brings new possibilities. Yes, sometimes we can’t see it, but we know it’s there!
Then there are spectacular sunrises like the one we had one morning last week, coming up gently with an extraordinary beauty that never ages.
Giving a cow or heifer time without disruption is really important
Meanwhile a similar beauty was unfolding in the calving shed as an experienced big black cow made for the far corner to give birth to her calf. If the lights weren’t on she’d be invisible to the night just as she would want. From the distance, she threw me the eye as if to say, “Keep back now and let me at it.”
Giving a cow or heifer time without disruption is really important. Once the presentation is correct with two front legs and a nose clear, it’s best to let nature take its course.
There were already five calves born that morning. My husband Tim and I had a bit of trouble figuring out which calf belonged to which cow.
The DNA results will sort them out in any case. All the calves have been fed and stowed away under the shelter with the added glow of the infrared lamp. They are now wrapped up in tight balls on top of each other. The herd instinct is visible from the early hours of life.
Orange and pink bursts of colour mingled with the dark grey clouds
Calves like touch and flourish on it. That is why I dislike individual pens, apart from the workload they entail. I put the colostrum heating in the water bath and took time to enjoy the sunrise. Orange and pink bursts of colour mingled with the dark grey clouds. The silhouette of the bare branched apple tree in the foreground was quite spectacular against the far away ditch of columnar and round shrubs. It was enough to take my breath away.
During these busy times, I try to take a few moments to pause and marvel at the splendour of nature and the work we are doing. From my vantage point at the top of the stairs, I uttered a little gasp of delight seeing a jet-black beautiful calf emerge, raise her head and flail around, taking in big gulps of air.
There are 19 calves born to sexed semen so far with only one bull among them
I’m fairly sure it’s a heifer destined to live out her life in Woodside as the cow was in calf to sexed semen. It is too early to tell but the results seem to be positive. There are 19 calves born to sexed semen so far with only one bull among them.
At busy times, it pays to be kind and patient with those we work with and to remember everyone is actually doing their best. It is also important to pace ourselves.
The sky won’t fall down if you’re missing for 30 minutes
If you’re up late at night and still have to get up early the next morning, try and find time to have a nap during the day or even watch something on Netflix to distract the mind from racing over all that has to be done. The sky won’t fall down if you’re missing for 30 minutes. I’ve started doing this the odd day and it works a treat.
I also notice that my systems are not up to scratch yet. My son Colm and I had this conversation yesterday and we agreed that it takes a bit of time to get everything running smoothly. I had eight baby calves to feed and he said that he’d help me when he was finished milking.
As the days go on, I remember the labour-saving tricks I used to employ
An hour later, he asked how many I’d fed. My answer was one. I felt a bit of a fool but that’s the way it goes. By the end of calving, I’ll be among the best calf rearers in the country! But right now, I’m struggling to keep on top of it. As the days go on, I remember the labour-saving tricks I used to employ.
Then, I hear my other son Philip’s voice in my head: “Are you acidifying the milk for the calves Mom?” Good grief, I had forgotten! Even though the boxes of it were there in the shed. It is hard when you’re on your own to remember everything. Every day we will get more efficient.