Ruby has finally calved, well to be exact we have just calved her as after a disturbed night she presented us with one hind foot at 8am. I could see a hoof sticking out from the birth passage and had just broken the membrane so that if the calf came naturally it would not drown in constraints of the birth sack. Once the sack was popped I could see immediately that it was a hind leg which signals DANGER to both the heifer and calf.
However breech births are fairly common in cattle and sheep and fairly routine to deal with. As Jethro’s pet cow [she was hand reared before we got her] she is a easier to handle than say a heifer from our big herd out in the fields.
Anyway Jethro located the other hind leg and pulled it out until we had two hind legs presenting and the hips would be next to deliver. Then it was matter of easing the calf out gently, as Ruby pushed with each contraction, Jethro and one of the men kept an even pressure on the calf by gently pulling on the legs so that in between contractions the calf eases forwards inch by inch.
In this situation it is vitally important to be as speedy as possible, while taking every care not to damage the cow’s birth passage and pelvis, because calves and lambs in the breech position often take in amniotic fluid through their mouths and noses on their journey out of the uterus.
The deep red calf was delivered safely and then had to be hung up by his hind legs to clear all the gunk from its mouth and nose. This took some considerable time, and all the time the calf was being rubbed and its heart massaged. I gave the calf a couple of rescue breaths too and the colour of the mucous membranes reamined good and the eye reflex was also good. Sometimes calves or lambs born via breech births never breath.
When we thought we had held the calf upside down for long enough we laid it down and Ruby joined with the resucitation with her tongue. Little by little the calf started to come around and take the occasional breath. Only at this point did we think to look to see what gender the calf was, it was a boy.
I’d really have liked a heifer to breed from however this will provide us with plenty of meat in 30 months time. He sounds rather like an old man with pneumonia with a deep throaty rattle and cough but we will monitor him carefully and once he is up on his feet it will ease his chest.
The calf is deep red like his mother, and the white snow continues to fall, heavily. For yet another day all our earlier tracks have been obliterated and the feeding of extra rations in the fields goes on.