When a Cow has a Baby: Part 1

You haven’t heard from me in awhile and are probably like, “MDFC, what’s the deal?”.  Here is the deal.  I have been working with someone to update the look and accessibility of my blog.  I was hoping to debut this post with my new look, but we hit a snag.  So, while we wait enjoy this post.

It is fairly well known that dairy farmers wear many hats.  They have a lot of tasks to tackle on a daily basis.  They have to be nutritionists, milkers, quaility control specialists, mechanics…the list goes on and on.  I do various things here at our family dairy farm, but my primary duty is to care for the cows that have just given birth and their newborn babies.

I know, it’s pretty cool.

So if we want to put a fancy title on this- because I like fancy names that make me sound really important-I guess you could say I am a dairy neonatal nurse.

I spend most of my time in what we call the “hospital barn”.  This barn includes two large pens that house the cows that are about to give birth and just gave birth.  It is important to the cows’ health that we keep a close eye on them for 2 weeks prior to calving and 2 weeks after calving.

This barn also includes several, smaller pens that are bedded with shavings and provide privacy for the cows in labor.  I keep a close eye on the momma-to-be and will assist her with the birth if needed.

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Once the calf has made its entrance into the world, I immediately step in.   I want to make sure the calf’s airway is clear of mucus and that he/she is breathing normally.  I then step back and wait to see if the mother will lick and dry the calf.

Most cows will begin to lick the calf due to the increased levels of hormones in their body and maternal instinct, but there are some cows who just don’t give a hoot about the baby.

They would rather just eat.

When this happens, I go back into the pen with the baby and mother and dry the calf off with a towel. It can be a wet, ooey-gooey job, but someone has got to do it.  I hear mucus is good for your skin…okay so that is just what I tell myself.

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Ya, you just go over and chow down, Bessie.  I got this.

My next task is to make sure the calf receives colostrum.  Colostrum is the mother’s first milking and provides the antibodies the calf needs to survive.  To ensure quality and consistency, we use a colostrum replacement.  It is important that the calf receives the colostrum within the first two hours of its life.

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Calves have a natural instinct to suckle and normally take to the bottle quickly.  It always amazes me how they just know to do that.

The momma is usually standing nearby as I feed the calf.  She may decide to eat or continue to lick the calf.  Occasionally, I find myself being licked.  Thanks, Bessie.

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After the calf is fed, I vaccinate her and dip her navel with iodine.  The iodine will protect the navel and dry out the umbilical cord so that it falls off naturally.  At this time, the calf also receives an eartag with an identification number.  This number will be entered into our computer system and help us track every event that this calf has throughout her life!

Now, we are not quite done with momma and baby.  There is still more work to do!  I hope you will stay tuned for When A Cow has a Baby: Part 2!

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