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jemima calved early this morning

Jemima is a young first calving heifer and the daughter of Desiree one of the herd’s senior high-ranking cows. I wrote about Jemima back in the summer, in the Social Life of Cows, explaining how she was beginning to take on some herd responsibilities and appeared to be turning into a scout cow – the animal the herd relies on to find new and better pasture; this, in their domesticated state, generally involves making their herdsman, me, know that the grass is getting short and it’s time to move on. Jemima was always a friendly happy-go-lucky youngster though has taken her new responsibilities seriously and as many young upwardly-mobile heifers, became slightly more aloof to humans during the course of the summer.

If a heifer is growing well and cycling (bulling) regularly during her first winter inside, I like to put her to the bull during the early part of the year. A well grown heifer can become too fat and she is then more likely to be difficult to get into calf. Another reason is, as she calves well before the rest of the herd, it gives both the calf and her a good period in which to establish lactation and to bond, before the rather more frenetic main calving period. Also, when I have quite a few heifers calving at the same time, such as last year, they tend to form their own sub-group within the herd and help one another out. And the last reason…it spices up the bull’s rather tedious winter routine no end!

Jemima was due on the 9th January. She was late and generally this isn’t a worry as my cows gestation period always seems to be about ten to fourteen days longer than the norm. But Robert and I are going away (more on this later) and since being housed in November she, Jemima, has turned somewhat scatty. One of the reasons for this is due to being the only animal of her age in the herd with none of her companion cohorts; she was the only maiden heifer I decided to keep last year. I needed her to calve before I went away in case of any problems. Olly was becoming a little tense about it too!

She was safely checked and cudding late last night with no apparent signs of ever going to calve. Somewhere at around four-thirty this morning during a timpanic pounding and hammering of rain and a howling and shrieking of winds, I fuzzily became aware of another sound – a mournful fog-horning. I sat up with a start, Jemima! I pulled on whatever came to hand, fell out of the house still half asleep, skidded and slid through liquid mud, almost fell down steps which had turned into a fastly-fierce turbulent water-fall and stumbled to the cow palace light. Slip-slided-splashed around through the barriers to find Jemima with a tiny wet calf just sliding out of her!

Mother and baby doing well. And photos of the pair of them tomorrow.

photo of bluetits by Ben, my son

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