We were about to walk out the door to church last weekend, when I looked out one of our back windows and saw that my milk cow Sienna was in labor. I threw on my husband’s boots, gathered the skirt of my dress in one hand, and headed out to check on her. I could see the calf’s hooves sticking out, so that’s always a good sign. You want two hooves out first, followed by a nose. Otherwise, the calf’s birthing position could be wrong.
I came back inside and watched from the window for a little while. It was extremely hot and humid out. (Thank you, Texas summers.) When I saw Sienna go ahead and lay down to birth the calf, I went back outside to watch and take pictures. Most cows would get up and move away, not wanting an audience, but Sienna didn’t mind my presence.
The whole process only took about 20 minutes. Lucky her. Just as soon as the calf slid out, Sienna jumped up and turned around to start the important job of licking the calf dry and getting the amniotic sac off. I walked over and checked to see what gender the calf was. Seeing it was a bull and he seemed healthy, I came back inside the house, so we could leave for church.
After church, my husband carried the new baby, with Sienna following close behind, to the barn, so I could try and drain off some colostrum, giving her a little relief from such an overfilled udder. The calf pooped on him on the way. Lucky him.
The first couple of milkings are tough. Sienna’s teats are so swollen that they are hard to milk, and they seem tender based on Sienna’s reaction to me trying to milk her. Also, cows are very protective and concerned about their new offspring, especially right after birth. I had the calf right next to her while milking, but Sienna was still nervous and preoccupied about him. Before long, she won’t be so concerned. I will be able to leave the calf in the pen, take Sienna to the barn alone, milk her, and then bring her back to the calf without any issues.
I took just under a gallon from Sienna the first milking, but she was still very full. I went out and milked her again three hours later and got about the same amount off. After the first milking, my husband banded* the calf and gave him an ear tag. So, his life as a bull was extremely short. Now he’s a steer.
I will sell my steer when he’s older. Sticking with the soda names I’ve decided to do for this year’s calves that I plan to sell, I named him Seven-Up. Thus far, my calves are Coke, Sprite, and Seven-Up.
Seven-Up has proven to be quite big, strong, and lively for his age. Usually, it can take a couple of days before a calf will figure out he can nurse off of all four teats. Seven-Up had it figured out the morning after he was born. I’m very pleased about this, because then he can help me do my job. And, for some reason, Sienna’s so much more patient when her calf is nursing than when I am milking.
*Banding a bull means to put a band around its testicles, cutting off the blood supply so the balls shrivel up. It’s an easy way to castrate cattle. It doesn’t hurt them at all.