When I arrived at the barnyard yesterday morning, no cows greeted me. In fact, there were no cows as far as the eye could see.
This was mysterious. Like most animals, the cows and bulls invariably show up at feeding time. They haven’t been wandering far recently anyway – when it’s not grazing season, they’re not very motivated to stray far from the barn even though they have plenty of pasture to explore – and I couldn’t remember ever reaching the barn at feeding time with not a single one of them in sight.
I walked a little ways toward the woods in one direction, then a little ways toward the woods in the other direction, puzzled. I stopped to think for a moment, and then I heard mooing from the woods to the east of the pasture. Reassured, I opened the barn gate and pulled out the usual three bales that this particular herd goes through daily at this time of year. I could see them ambling slowly out of the grove of trees, and I could tell it wasn’t the easiest crossing for them. The ground was boggy between the edge of the woods and the pasture. First Rain wandered out, stumbled a little, headed toward the hay bales I’d put out. Then Gracie, a large cow walking sturdily. Then Hank, slow as ever.
No sign of Daisy, which clarified the situation somewhat. My father had asked me just the day before if I’d noticed any signs that she was ready to deliver. I hadn’t, but signs aren’t generally that easy to come by, and I had almost forgotten that she was due this month. She’s calved before without any trouble, so we weren’t concerned, just curious when this year’s calf would arrive.
I headed out in the same direction from which the cows had emerged. Soon I saw Daisy next to the brook, her head down to the ground, and right near her head was a damp dark brown heap of a calf. I could see the calf tossing its head, so that alleviated two concerns already: the delivery was over and the calf was moving.
It seemed to me that Daisy wasn’t too happy about the calf being so close to the brook, almost in the water, and the bank where they stood was steep. As I watched, I could see the calf was having trouble scrambling up the bank to flatter, drier terrain. But within a few minutes, the calf was on its feet and managed to take the few steps that removed it safely from the steep part of the bank.
It looked like a very very small calf to me, but my father arrived just about then – I had called when I saw Daisy to let him know about the birth – and he said it looked like a normal calf to him. The placenta hadn’t yet appeared, so we didn’t have that job to take care of yet. (Suffice to say that I’m always happy when calves are born on one of the three days each week that our local transfer station is open. And suffice to say that I sincerely hope no one from our DPW is reading my blog.)
Just like all the other cows I’ve seen after delivery, Daisy knew what she was doing. She licked the calf’s rumpled fur and nudged it back to its feet. We could safely assume it would soon be nursing. With my mother’s help, I fetched a bale of hay and brought it out to Daisy so that she and the calf wouldn’t have to cross the same boggy terrain the other cows did to get to the barn.
Yesterday was a mild, clear, dry day. Heavy rain is predicted for later today. I always feel bad for the calves that are born during wet weather, but it seems to happen often, and they pull through. This one will grow quickly, as they all do, and will soon seem like any other member of the herd. I’m glad I was able to see it in its first few minutes. I hope it’s glad to be here.