Friday 19 July, 2013
Both cows, Breeze and Blizzard, were calving for the second time. Last year, Breeze had a bull calf, called George (now a bullock and running with Henry, our 2011 bought-in bullock and Storm, our young bull); Blizzard had a heifer, Rosedean Santa Ana (Annie), who we have kept. Watching the relationship between the three females – two’s company, three’s a crowd – I was really hoping that Breeze would have a heifer calf “to keep”.
The sire of both of this year’s calves was Glachbeg The Laird. We hired him from another Shetland breeder and he quickly and effectively did his stuff. We used Kamar heat detectors on the cows because the period of standing heat can be quite short and I wanted to know when they had been served. After the first service, I changed the Kamars and waited – but he’d caught both first time. We brought Billy Bull down from Peterhead on 23rd August and he went home on 27th September – job done. Six weeks later, we had them PD’d and both were in calf. Yay!!
Unlike 2012, when the calves were born a month apart, this year, both cows were due only four days apart – Blizzard on the 13th June and Breeze on the 17th. And last year, both calved bang on their due dates. This year, however, they decided to try something different. :-)
On Thursday 13th, Blizzard (who was the size of a small mammoth) was distinctly restless with a slight discharge. Both had bagged up by then. About midday, I went out to check them and Breeze was down, waterbag showing. Panicking only slightly, I decided to go for a cup of tea but before I got the kettle on, John phoned to say she’d calved! Much excited, we shot round and there she was, vigorously licking a little dun and white heifer calf – Rosedean Tempest - or Bonny, as she later became. :-)
Once it was clear that Bonny was fine, we left cow and calf to get on with bonding. Meanwhile, Blizzard was still pacing around.
Charlie, Blizzard’s black and white bull calf, was born sometime between 3am and 7am on Friday 14th June. I was concerned about him at once – he just seemed dopey; not interested in sucking, not really interested in getting up (although he’d been up and had a little milk when we found him at 7am, I’m sure) – just no vim and vigour. :-(
I called Alistair, our vet, for some advice and he said that he’d probably had a bit of a squeeze and, with the softness of the skull, his brain had probably sustained some bruising; he said to try and get some colostrum into him, so I milked off about 500ml, put it in a bottle and he did drink it, albeit reluctantly. But it was clearly vet time, so another of the vets came out, confirmed what Alistair had said and gave Charlie an antibiotic (just in case), a vitamin injection (just in case) and a steroid to take down any inflammation. He also tubed a litre of colostrum into the wee chap.
Over Friday night, we made him get up and feed every two or three hours and by Saturday, he seemed a bit better. Finally, I saw him get up in response to his mother licking him and going to feed and I knew he was going to be OK. What a relief!
By Monday, he was skipping around and nosing into everything. At three weeks, he’s a cracking calf – much bigger than Bonny but not as fast. And she’s the leader – Trouble might have been a more apt name than Tempest. :-)
Coming out of the winter, I was worried that the cows were too thin and that the calves might be affected either before birth or after, if milk supply was limited, but despite my inability to get a drop from Breeze and very little from Blizzard, the calves seem well fed, content and growing well.
June is later than I intended to calve; April was the plan to coincide with lambing – but Annie was born end of June last year, so at least it has moved forward two weeks. However, given the slow grass growth this spring, I’m kind of glad we didn’t calve in April.
So, our bull, Hollins Storm, will be going in with the two cows and the heifer on the Glorious 12th of August, three weeks after the cows’ second Schmallenberg vaccination and sixty days after calving. Annie will be thirteen and a half months old, which is a couple of months younger than I would have liked, but she’s well grown and I’d rather have all three calving as a group, if I can. Just hope Storm’s legs are long enough. :-)