Birth of a Stud Sire - Sweet William






It was late on a Friday afternoon in August by the time I drove the children home from Crows Nest. My husband, Ian, had to work late that night, and wasn`t due home for several hours.

Knowing there was one special cow due to calve soon, I walked to the nearby paddock to check on her. Late in that winter of 1997, it was very dry and our stud cows were being kept in a paddock near the house and fed their drought rations of hay each day.

The expectant Mum, a stud Blonde d`Aquitaine cow called Norma, was one of the best cows in our fledgling stud. She was in calf to a good French bull, and she was the first cow to be A.I.`d (artificially inseminated) since we bought the herd. When I found her, it was obvious the time for the big event was near. All I could see of the calf, though, was a pair of white legs and pinkish hooves protruding from Norma`s back end.

Things didn`t seem to be progressing as they should. What I didn`t know at the time was that this calf was attempting to enter the world backwards - a breech delivery!

Feeling concerned, I went to fetch my father-in-law, Ernie. The children stayed with their aunt next door while Ernie came to assist in any way he could.

We made a few attempts to herd the cows towards the cattle yards near the house. Unsuccessfully. Norma is a quite enough cow, but a bit stubborn. She tends to look at gateways rather suspisicously. If you are trying to persuade her to go through one, she looks at you as if saying to herself, "And what indignities might I be subjected to if I go through this gate?"

Given the lady`s delicate condition, we didn`t want to press her too much. This would not make her the first female in labour to be given a little leeway, not to say be pandered to a little bit!

Meanwhile, the calf`s hooves and legs were not joined in the outside world by any other body parts. The birthing process had definitely stalled.

One of my clearest memories of that night was of the two of us sitting in the front of Ernie`s old runabout Falcon, keeping an eye on Norma with the car`s headlights. The night air kept growing colder, so I grabbed some warm jumpers from the house along with a large packet of salt & vinegar chips we`d bought in town that day.  Back at the car, chomping on the chips, it was a bit like being at the drive-in movies.

Time, however, was dragging by. We were also haunted with anxiety for the prospective mother and child. Would they be all right? Was the calf still alive in there? We only owned a few stud cows, and every calf was precious. Finally, the cavalry arrived! Ian`s ute rattled up the driveway, and we were quick to put him in the picture. The longer the labour went on, the more likely we would be to lose the calf.

With Ian on the scene, there was a flurry of activity. Enticed by extra portions of hay, all the cows (including a very reluctant Norma) were moved in the right direction. Soon the expectant Mum was ensconced in the labour ward (a blocked-off portion of the yard`s race).

Now, I passionately admire these cows, and dream dreams of their possible future progeny on an almost daily basis. Ian, however, is the one who knows how to handle them. It didn`t take him long to establish that this was a back-to-front delivery. The plan of attack was to pull him out - hard and fast.

Soon Ian and Ernie had tied ropes on the calf`s legs. These descendants of a tug-o`-war anchorman put plenty of grunt into their pulling. Nothing seemed to give - certainly not like it needed to. Our hopes of getting a live calf out were fading fast.

There was a rapid talk about phoning the vet. (Little did we know, our mate Chris was a couple of hundred kilometres away, having a weekend at the coast!)

"We`ll just give it one more try before we ring `im," was the verdict.

So they did. After what seemed to be a sustained, supernatural effort - I`m not so good at pulling, but no-one stops me praying! - the breakthrough came. A slippery mess, still tied with ropes, slid out and bumped to the ground.

"Is he alive?"

"Can you see him breathing?"

(We`d decided early in the night we were dealing with a male of the species - no fine-boned little heifer legs, those.)calfn.jpg (11841 bytes)

The lights shining above the old dairy shed divulged their secret.

"He`s alive!"

Cow and calf - both safe. A miracle. The anxiety, the effort, the invested hopes, are all worthwhile. Jubilant, we study the wet and shiny outline, darkened by its present moisture. Very impressive, the best we`ve ever seen.

Ernie has the last word: "Behold, the golden calf."


 Margie Vonhoff
Copyright, 1999.
All rights reserved.




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Last update: 26th August, 2003.