We’ve dragged ourselves through this week, desperate for the days to end and bedtime arrive. The endless night-time checks of the heifers due to calve have taken their toll and sleep is in short supply.
At 10pm last Sunday night I made my last check of the cow shed, Paul doing the later ones, before heading to bed. The heifer we’d been expecting to calve was flat out pushing, her head periodically lifting and turning to look at her heaving sides. She eventually managed to get the water bag out and then rather laboriously heaved herself up onto her feet.
I went back inside, put the kettle on and roused Paul who had nodded off in his chair. I headed up to bed, expecting to be woken if needed.
Two hours later, I left my warm bed, pulled my waterproofs over the top of my pyjamas and headed out into the cold.
Worried she wasn’t making much progress, Paul had put her in the crush and examined her internally. It didn’t take him long to realise things were not good, so he’d woken me. I confirmed his worst suspicion, a large calf, presented backwards with barely room to get my arm past the two hooves that were tightly wedged inside the heifer.
There was no discussion, the vet was rung and that was that. We sat and waited in the shed, a cold, damp wind from the west blowing under the door, stripping the heat from our bodies. The vet arrived and soon got down to business.
A Caesarean section is a fascinating procedure. If it hadn’t been 2am on a school day, I’d have woken John-William as I know he would have been intrigued to witness a calf being born “out of the side door”! As with many things, it was not straightforward and required a lot of skill from the vet. I did wonder at one point if he was going to strip off to the waist and dive in, in search of the calf!
Alas he didn’t and after much reaching, twisting and turning, a leg appeared. The rest followed quite quickly and a beautiful big bull calf lay at our feet. Showing no signs of life he was quickly laid over a gate, head down, whilst Paul rubbed frantically, urging him to take a breath.
Great clouds of steam rose from his sodden body, which looked a sorry sight, hanging limply, with a vet and a husband working on him. After what seemed an eternity he coughed and spluttered and we lowered him back down into the straw.
His mother, who had stared nonchalantly ahead, seemingly without a care in the world, suddenly noticed the calf laying to the side of her. I started rubbing him down, stimulating his body, encouraging him to keep breathing.
Her eyes, bulging and curious watched me as I worked, whilst her two friends wandered over for a closer inspection. As the vets began the long task of stitching her back up, I marvelled, not for the first time at the miracle that is a new life, fresh out of the oven. Welcome to the world “Caesar”!