Nature's Place

Calving Time

I live next to a dairy farm and the paddock next to me is used for calving cows. There have been about ten expectant mothers in the field for a week or so now and many of them already have their calves. For a few days I have had to shoo them away from leaning over the fence to eat what’s left of a beautiful plant growing next to it. It has clusters of lovely dark red, pink and yellow bell shaped flowers with dark green leaves on shiny purpley brown stems that snake out all over the place. (RIMG0771.JPG)

I have been nurturing this plant for a while, since I got here in fact, after the cows got it six months ago. And now it’s been decimated, almost, again. I spent an hour or so yesterday building protection around what’s left of it, with long stakes placed through the fence and tied in place so the cows can’t get their heads through or over and eat what’s left. It’s a very old and patchy fence. It has worked so far. When I had a look this morning what was left of the plant is still there. (RIMG1017.JPG)

I sat down to check email and maybe write a bit when I heard a cow mooing repeatedly. That usually means she’s in trouble of some kind. So I went out to check and there was one cow lying in a ditch, almost upside down, and she couldn’t get up.

I didn’t know what to do so I rang the farmer to get him over. And I went back to the computer.

Then I saw my neighbor Claudia walking across my front garden heading for the cow. I shouted through the window, ‘do you know about cows Claudia?’ She said, ‘a bit’. So I went out to help her if I could and maybe learn something new. She climbed over the fence and started pulling a calf out of the other end of the cow but she didn’t have the strength for it. So she called me in to the field, a sort of pleading order.

I had been watching her from a short distance away not knowing exactly what was going on nor what to do. I went to where she climbed over the fence and there was the legs and the head of the calf and Claudia pulling saying, ’come on, pull! So I climbed the fence and I took the legs from her and she took the head and with a gentle side to side motion we slowly brought the calf out of the mother.

The farmer, Colin, arrived on his tractor about this time and went to the head of the cow to see if he could help her up but she was overpoweringly strong for him and almost threw him away with a whip of her neck. So the cow was still in the ditch and kicking out to try and get up and look after her calf. And you don’t want to get in the way of a cows kick. They might look small and cute from a passing car but they are massive creatures, and strong. After a few attempts she got herself out of the ditch and was up and running. Running at Colin, then running at Claudia and then me.

And though not all cows have the same temperament, she was doing what all mothers do. Looking out for her child. Her brow furrowed with attitude, eyes wide. She turned this way and that, kicking dirt backwards with her front foot, preparing to charge, looking for the most immediate threat. Not realizing there was none.

So we removed the perception of threat. Claudia jumped the fence, Colin jumped up on the tractor and then I jumped the fence when she turned to me. Now she’s back with the herd and all is well with her and the calf.

For all the placid moon eye of the cow she is still an instinctive beast. (RIMG1380.JPG) A beautiful creature no doubt, but don’t get between her and her calf. And don’t expect gratitude. You’ll be disappointed. If not trampled.

And the earthy smell of animal birth stayed with me all day.

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