The cows usually head off into some deserted part of the property to have their calves. We sort of know 'who and approximately when' (it's all to do with udder size) so keep an eye out for their welfare when one 'disappears' for a time.
It took me ages to find my oldest cow and her new calf one rainy Saturday morning a few weeks ago as she had hidden it just over the creek in the bush where we had repaired the fence last October. I had walked past her a number of times during the search.
So it was a bit of surprise to see one giving birth out in the open while I was spraying the vines.
She seemed to be doing ok for a while until the youngster was half out. Then she was up and down quite a few times until she finally lay down and just stayed there.
We had had some trouble with this cow's calving a few years ago and she had needed assistance. Nothing much was happening so I headed off to consult with "Dr" Neighbour Bob but he was not there. Nurse Jude offered to help but by the time we got back the calf was on the ground. Mum was up but seemed a little exhausted so we helped clean out the newbie's nose and straightened out the legs a little. After that we let the mother do her thing unmolested and within 30 minutes the calf was up and tottering around.
One of the young heifers was having her first last week. She was struggling and the calf seemed 'stuck'. With Neighbour Bob in New Zealand we had to do things on our own. So after a while watching nothing happening the decision was made to help. With a little bit of pulling by the daughter and I and a lot of pushing by 'Mum' we eventually got the little bull calf into this world.
The new mother wanted nothing to do with her offspring so we had to clean him up and help him get his feet. We locked them in the cattle yard together but the mother was completely disinterested. Having had this happen before and dreading months of hand rearing, we became pro active putting the cow in the head bale and expressing milk into the calve's mouth until he got the hang of butting and sucking.
After a day in the confines of the cattle yard together, I let them both into a larger paddock and kept an eye out for some feeding activity. It seemed on the afternoon of day two she stopped kicking him away and knew he was hers and that she had to look after him.
It was good to see him with a fat little belly full of milk.
So that's five this year.
The next step will be deciding who has to go to market next autumn, apart from the bull who is an obvious contender.
The property can only carry a certain number and although this will be a good season it becomes tough when the grass stops growing and we have to supplement the available natural feed with very expensive lucerne hay.