We were soon to add another animal to our farm. It was time for Buttercup to calve. We were given an approximate due date, which came and went. We were checking her around the clock. We had several families who wanted to be notified when the blessed event was to take place. None of our friends or neighbors in that area had ever seen a live cow birth. We kept getting phone calls wanting to know if anything was happening. On December 28th, Buttercup was acting very strange. She paced the fence the whole day. Round and round the field she went. There were other physical signs that birth was imminent. She had some stuff hanging out of her and she seemed to be a lot looser in the hind quarters. We called the other families and told them we thought it would be today, but we had no idea when. We read and reread the chapters in our cow books on calving. So much of what we have experienced raising animals has been with a book in one hand. We had no idea what we were doing. We had towels to dry the baby off, our cow milking bucket was waiting all shiny and new. We had to get a larger one than the one we used for the goats. It looked huge and we wondered if we would ever fill it. We had iodine to dip the navel cord. We were prepared. Well, dusk started arriving. So we pulled our pick-up truck into the back yard so that we could use Michael's million candle power spot light if needed to witness this wonderful miracle. We could plug it into the cigarette lighter hole in the truck. None of us had been around large animals very much before Buttercup. We only had her a little over a month, so we were not totally comfortable with handling her. Michael and Joshua did much better than I did, but we wanted to step in as soon as the calf was born so that we could let it bond with us. Buttercup did not want an audience. Our friends had gathered around by now. So, that cow waited until dark and then went down into the farthest corner to have that baby in the mud. That was the only area in the whole pasture that was muddy. That is where she chose to calve. However, we were all able to see the birth with our spotlight. She did so well. Her calf was pretty big. There were several other families there watching as well. Buttermilk was born. She was a beautiful heifer. She was mostly white with some light tan spots on her. Michael and I gingerly walked up to the baby and mama. We started helping her clean off the calf. One of the things I love about animals giving birth is to watch the instincts that God gave to both mama and baby. The mamas always speak to the baby in soft little sounds. Buttercup just gave these little lowing sounds over and over while licking off the baby the whole time. The goats all nicker at their babies. Buttercup did not seem to mind us helping, so we got a bit braver. It was so much fun to watch her try to stand up and walk on those wobbly, gangly legs of hers. We had read all the books we could get our hands on, and talked to several people who had cows. The feelings were divided. Half said to leave the baby with the Momma for a week, and the other half said don't let her nurse, if you want any milk. Buttercup was being such a good momma, lowing to that baby, cleaning her off, and nuzzling her, so we decided to leave her with her momma overnight. It was kind of chilly and Buttercup would help to keep her warm. We learned to listen to the "other side" the next time. When we first separated them it was just at night. Neither one of them was happy and therefore none of us were either. Buttercup would call out to her baby all night and the baby would bawl this low throaty sound. Who ever said that a cow said moo, never heard our cows. With keeping Buttermilk separate all night we were getting a little bit of milk, but not much. Buttercup did not want to let it down for us. It was as if she were storing it all up for the baby. We finally separated them totally at about three weeks. This was a bad time, because it is the hardest time on the momma cow to eat enough to produce all the milk she does. This coupled with the stress of being away from her baby caused major health problems that required calls to the vet. Another thing we have noticed about our animals is that they always get their sickest on Saturday night or Sunday when it is almost impossible to talk to a vet. Buttercup gives a lot of rich milk those first few weeks. Actually, she gives a lot for most of her lactation. We were giving her calcium paste and putting molasses in her water. We finally got things squared away and she was doing well. We had to keep them separate until Buttermilk was about ten months old. Every time we would wait a couple of months and then put them together, she would rush over to nurse. She had learned how to nurse and she REMEMBERED!! We thought we were going to outsmart her. We bought a Kant-Suck device that is supposed to keep the calf from being able to nurse. It does not hurt them at all. We tried two different kinds of these devices. It hooks to their nose and hangs down on a hinge. When they put their head down to graze, it moves up and out of the way. If they put their head up as if to nurse, it covers their mouth, so they are not able to latch on. The one device we tried even had some spikes that would stick the mama and make her want to move away. We would put them in her nose and let her out of her pen. She would walk round and round with her nose up in the air trying to figure out what was on it. Then she would head for Momma. She would nose around a bit, figure out the device, fling it upward and nurse away. The little stinker!!
We bottle fed her for several months. Then we started giving her the milk in a bucket. We would warm it up with hot water. She would do the "Milky Dance", as we called it. She would bob from side to side, put her head down and then up, all the while stepping front to back and side to side. We would have to trick her to get in her pen and get the bucket down to her level without having it dumped on us. Once we got it down there she would dive in. She could suck down that bucket of milk quicker than anything. Then Star would lick her clean and she would lick Star. Star got the little bit of milk left in the bucket. It was down to a routine. Then she danced some more until you gave her the grain. We grain fed our cows back then. She would chow down her grain and then be looking for more milk. She would suck on any exposed skin or even your clothing. You would be trying to brush her and she would be sucking on your arms and your fingers. If you have ever had a calf that has just eaten, suck on you, you will know why we called it getting slimed!! Her shelter was just a low little shelter to allow her to get out of the rain or sun. For us to go in, we would have to duck down and go in and either stay bent over or sit down. I would duck down to go into her shelter to put her grain in her feed bowl and she would butt me looking for something to eat. She knocked me over more than once when I was bending down. One day, I decided to sit down in her shelter to try and calm her down. That was a BIG mistake. She began sucking on my eyebrow and cheek. They suck really hard, plus they bump you really hard. I wondered if I was going to keep my eye. I was hollerin’ for help, while Michael and Joshua just stood by and watched and giggled. They were so much help...NOT!! I have to admit, my cries for help were peppered with giggles. Oh, that cow was spoiled. I was her mama and she followed all of us around. We all kept trying to remind ourselves that she was to be hamburger. It was going to be hard.
Springtime rolled around and the two goats were ready to kid. We were having so much fun with all the animals. We were loving this life we chose. We had one birth under our belt and we felt a bit more prepared for this one. For the two nights before they were due to kid, Joshua slept out near the pen we had them in. He would run and get us at the first sign of labor. We did not want a repeat of babies being born in the mud, so we fixed up Ellie's old pen under the big oak tree and added a little yard with stock panels. Minx went into labor first at about three in the morning. She was a screamer. Joshua did not have to come and tell us that she was in labor. I am sure the whole neighborhood knew that she was. When Joshua came in to tell us (he did not know we were up) he said "She has already had the first one. It's in the dirt." Remember that line, and also remember that Minx is my goat. Anyway, she gave birth to triplets. We did not have to assist at all. We were so excited. One of them was the exact color of doe that I was hoping for. It is called chamoisee. However, they were all three bucks. I could not believe it. I was so hoping for a little doeling. Then at about eleven that morning, Ellie, our miracle goat started her labor. She was silent, except she would grunt and curl her lip up as she pushed. It was really funny to watch. With every little thing that would happen Joshua would say, "Is that supposed to be that way? Is she Okay? “ With my goat it was, "The first one is in the dirt ", and with his goat, he was a little mother hen. Well, she finally birthed the head. The baby goat's tongue was sticking out. It was such a bright red. Ellie got up and was walking around with the baby's head hanging out and the baby was looking all around. The sac had broken and the baby seemed really alert (at least for just seeing the head). Joshua wondered out loud, what the baby might be thinking. Probably, "GET ME OUT OF HERE!!" Next the two front hooves came. Then labor did not seem to advance for awhile. In the end, Michael and Joshua had to help pull
To be continued…