It’s a small thing, but it’s true: Having you in this world makes the whole place better. We’re so glad you’re here.
Here’s What’s Happening At Good Spirits Farm
In case the above isn’t a dead giveaway, Julia had her calf! An ultrasound had suggested a girl, but surprise: It’s a boy!
I noticed on Monday morning that Julia was starting labor. We got a halter put on her to try and lead her into the barn, since we were in the middle of a snowstorm, but Julia refused to leave Benni. So, we decided we’d let her labor in the pasture but watch her closely. This was Julia’s first baby, and it’s not uncommon to need to help first-time moms. I got ready to sit in the snow for a few hours as Julia progressed.
The labor itself went so well and was so fast. The feet emerged first, and I started my timer. If you don’t see the nose within an hour of the front feet, you likely need to intervene. But 11 minutes later, there was a tiny brown nose twitching! I cleared the amniotic fluid out of the nose, and then, just a few moments later we had a head, shoulders, hips, and finally the whole baby. No help from me required!
What was a little more stressful was getting baby fed. You have two hours to get milk into a new calf, and eight hours to get colostrum—which is a really rich form of first milk—into the baby. Colostrum is VITAL to a cow’s lifetime health. It basically begins the formation of a cow’s immune system, and a baby that doesn’t get it will struggle.
I set my timer again as soon as baby was fully birthed, and waited for him to get up. Gimlet had hopped right up and eaten like a little piggy (which is why I sometimes still call her Gimlet Piglet), but this baby was significantly smaller and seemed to be struggling. It was snowing and cold, and he was covered in amniotic fluid and shivering. The minutes ticked by while Julia and I worked on drying him off, rubbing his little body to try and invigorate him. After almost 40 minutes, he finally got shakily up. But then we had another problem: Julia didn’t want him near her teats. I’d been very worried about this because Julia had not let me touch her teats in the days leading up to the birth. (I actually got a kick straight to the knee about a week ago when I tried.)
With the clock ticking on that two-hour window, I sent Chris to thaw out colostrum I’d milked from Benni after Gimlet’s delivery. Then I set to work getting a halter on Julia and figuring out a plan. This summer, when Julia arrived, she was totally feral. But her previous owner urged me to work on haltering and leading lessons, and so I put in a lot of hours getting her used me, and the idea of wearing a halter. Thank GOODNESS for those lessons. I got a halter on her, got a plate of cow cookies and alfalfa pellets, and led her right next to the fence, so she could not step sideways. Then I coaxed baby into position and plunked the plate of treats in front of Julia. It worked! Baby found a teat and figured out how to suckle with just minutes to spare before hitting that two-hour mark.
After baby ate, we knew getting Julia into the barn was going to be crucial for the calf surviving. He was so tiny and wet and it was cold and snowing sideways. Chris, bless his heart, carried the slimey newborn all the way to the barn, with Julia following, working on pushing out her afterbirth as we crossed the pasture. We got them settled inside in a warm stall, and baby has been thriving ever since!
Here’s What I Loved This Week
This story of a 33-year-old bat that still gets taken out for daily “flying” time. Our elderly dog (15!) is getting to the point where she cannot do many of the things she used to do. I love that these caretakers have found a way to still bring joy to this bat’s life, and I hope I can do that for my pup until the very end.