I wake suddenly, groggily, not knowing where I am or who I am. Fumble for the clock, can’t see as my eyes won’t open properly, all blurry and gritty. What’s woken me? What am I doing? The fog in my brain clears slightly…ah yes, I was dreaming, dreaming that Princess was calving…had calved?
Princess is a young heifer who got her name from being the only calf born in October a couple of years ago out of a lead cow (a cow that’s top of the pecking order in the herd). So she got lots of attention from the herd and us, and developed ‘prima-donna’ tendencies – hence ‘Princess’. Because she was born out of sync, she calves at a different time to the rest of the herd, something which will take a year or two more to correct. She was due to calve on the 29th June (my cows can easily be ten days late) and though not unduly worried, I brought her up near the house in a meadow not far from the kitchen window!
…back to sudden awakening. I manage to focus on the clock, 4.45am; the light outside the window is the dove grey of dawn. Blast…I think, better get up and check the cow (I get up early, but not that early). Stumble along to the bathroom, don my overalls and sleepily sway downstairs pulling on waterproofs as I go. Outside, walking down the meadow, still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes I try to focus in the misty half light. I squint…yes, there’s Severn and her calf, Wildcat and hers…my eyes strain to see the hedgerow at the bottom, ah yes, I see a shape. Quietly I approach her. She’s lying on her side, concentrating. I move slowly around to her back end and see two hooves just appearing from her vulva. Making soft lowing noises to her I gently check that all’s presented correctly and gradually move away.
Everything’s in order and progressing normally. I go back to the kitchen for a cup of tea. I return about thirty, forty minutes later with iodine (for the naval) and calving ropes (in case she has a problem with the head). I find her pacing in between strong contractions. She goes down again in the sheltered spot she’s chosen and starts hard pulsing, pushing contractions. The feet and half the head appear, she holds them there and with one almighty sustained heaving push the head is born. Another stupendous thrust and the shoulders are out followed by the slippery, slimy slide of the body. I clear the calf’s nose, he blinks long, spiky-wet eyelashes, sneezes, snoffles and kicks. Princess lies exhausted, heaving and panting. She lifts her head, sees her wet, jerky baby lying behind her. With a low she’s up on her feet, nuzzling, licking, pushing and talking to her new born calf.