The ewes and lambs are out of the shed and into the field; it’s all over for another year. I have recorded all the births, notified the Portland Breeders Flock Book, tagged all lambs to comply with government requirements, and updated all my own record keeping. It is very satisfying to see the lambs running and jumping and playing. Not just satisfying, absolute bliss to watch!
Lamb with the funny tongue is sorted and now leading the pack. Sometimes a tongue can get quite swollen if it is sticking out during the birth. (Do human babies do this?) It usually sorts itself within a couple of hours. But not this guy. It was hanging out, long and pink, and he couldn’t quite get the teat to stay in his mouth. I realised after a few hours he was getting weak, his tummy was quite empty. The tubing continued for a couple of days, about every four hours. He tucked his head up under mum, I milked her and then tubed him. He got strong and although the tongue continued to flap about, he finally figured out how to do it all by himself. He makes quite a slurpy noise but gets the job done.
Six calves have arrived, one older cow, Karen, still to go. Highland mothers are so attentive and affectionate with their babies. They still spend time every day licking them, and when anyone approaches they move around to hide the calf. The cows know me and my loud voice so I can get quite close as I chatter away to them.
I did have a worry with calf #5. Nini is a rather small cow and she had a very long legged calf. A stupid long legged bull calf that couldn’t figure out where the teats were. Highlands are tough. A newborn dairy calf needs colostrum within about 12 hours or survival rates plummet. A highland calf can go much longer. But we realised at the end of the day that he wasn’t sucking and the poor mum’s udders were blown up like a hot air balloon.
I called the cattle into the holding area, then shoved all but Nini and her calf back out. With a bucket of cow cake I moved Nini into the crush and caught her. Dan and I opened the crush in such a way that we could shove the bull calf onto the teat, holding his head down. He still didn’t get it, so we milked the very frustrated mum, transferred milk to a bottle with a rubber teat and calf sucked it up fast. Now when we tried again, stuffing his thick head into the teats, he grabbed them and sucked away. Moved him to the other side and he sucked again. Yes!
The vet later told me that Big Bull calves are renowned for their stupidity. So we kept the two of them in the holding area for a couple of days, just to make sure he was fit and healthy.
I cannot forget to mention the bluebells. West Dorset is a destination point when it comes to bluebell woods. They only last a few weeks. And we have our very own bluebell wood all around. Dan’s beautifully restored and flourishing woodlands are covered with a blue carpet!
Jo Stover has daily adventures on her small farm, together with her Highland cattle and Portland sheep, bees, a few hens, dogs, and some two-legged family and friends.