I have been waiting and waiting for Goldie to calve. She's had a ginormous udder for almost two weeks now, maybe longer, but with the way things have been going, I was starting to question whether we'd have any more calves at all (93 has had all kinds of weird issues and I have no idea whether to expect her to calve at this point or not), but when I went out to check on everyone this morning and found Goldie to be missing, I immediately went looking for her. Sure enough, she had found a quiet place to do her thing.
She had her back to me when I came up on her. Her tail kept me from seeing anything, but I could tell she was in labor. Little did I know that I caught her at the final push! What luck, I thought and started recording a video. Then Goldie got up and the calve came sliding out - which is not unusual at all, but this calf came out completely limp. I mean it's not like the calves usually catch themselves or anything, but they don't usually come out looking quite so much like a floppy rag doll. The sound it made when hitting the ground was so discouraging, I was sure it was dead.
You can hear my disappointment and concern in the video, but then Goldie started licking that calf. Mamas licking their calves is so, so important in stimulating the calf to come to and start breathing on their own and with its first twitch, I was so excited! Phew! Good grief. I wasn't sure I was ready to sustain another loss so soon.
I went out to check on them throughout the day and this calf, though it had a floppy start, it was up and nursing very quickly. It seems strong and sticks to mama like glue, which eases my mind a bit after the last loss due to the coyotes. Mama and baby hung out in the knoll where she gave birth pretty much the whole day, but just about dusk, I saw them come out and join the herd for an evening grazing session. I am now feeling cautiously optimistic that all will be well! Yay!
Four days ago, 603 started our calving season off right. That morning, I was pretty sure she was in labor based on how she was acting, but since all seemed well, I just let her do her thing. And do it, she did! Later that afternoon, I was lucky enough to catch a good look at baby - though it was from quite a distance.
The following day, I was happy to catch a glimpse of the calf nursing late in the afternoon. It appeared healthy, so I wasn't too concerned when I didn't see it for the two days. But this evening, I thought I really wanted some proof of life, so out I went with my camera to see what I could see.
Lo and behold, the girls were all in the upper pasture and I felt the odds were in my favor that baby was in the lower pasture, so I closed the gate and went hunting for him/her. 603 told me clearly that baby was in my pasture with her behavior, and then as I was watching her, I saw baby's head pop up from behind the rock wall. As I first approached baby, s/he was standing but then it decided it was supposed to hide, so it lay down. Mama was right there on the other side of the fence giving me a piece of her mind.
I didn't want to antagonize mama too much, but I figured it was my chance to get a few nice photos of an elk calf without a fence between me and it. I have a bit of zoom on my camera, so I only had to get within about 15-20 feet of baby to get some good pictures. Mama was pacing the whole time, hair standing on end, grinding her teeth at me.
Baby didn't provide me with an opportunity to identify its gender, so we'll have to wait before I can start calling it a him or a her. Regardless, it is certainly cute!!
Well, I didn't want to make mama too crazy, so I took my dozen photos and left them alone. I sure hope this little one has some friends soon!! I think 604 may be next on deck, but I guess time will tell!
I've been loathe to write this... it's been a challenging week. Farming is not for the faint hearted! Besides the somewhat normal, if not to the max this year, challenges with insect and animal pests in the gardens, we had a very disappointing death this week.
I found this baby inexplicably dead on Monday. After much research, investigation, and consultation, I believe I know what the main cause of death was, but it doesn't really matter. The end result is the same. You wait for almost a year to see those new calves arrive and to have it taken so quickly when it was initially so healthy is disappointing - to put it mildly.
I believe the calf was stricken down by a condition called fly strike. When weather conditions are just right (hot and humid, which it was horribly so with a bit of rain on top of it), fly pressure can be heavy and if the hair is moist or the naval isn't dry they can lay their eggs so quickly on a new calf that it actually overwhelms them very quickly, in as little as 24 hours. This is something I had always heard about but never seen. Having spent most of my livestocking years in the arid West, I had never come across it first hand.
There may have been confounding factors, and I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice to say, I'm very disappointed about the loss. It's funny, when we first started having calves on the place, when I didn't see a calf at least once a day, I was beside myself, and then I started chastising myself for being silly. Well, I guess when I didn't see that calf at all Sunday, I wish I'd been a little silly and gone looking for it. Hind sight is 20/20, I suppose.
Thank goodness the elk calf seems healthy so far! I didn't get to see it today, despite my efforts - the elk calves hide really well - and the mamas are not quite so magnanimous with me in there looking for them (i.e. they'd run me down me if given the chance!), but I did have proof of life yesterday and it looked very healthy, running around and appearing quite strong.
Today, I gave the yak some grass around lunch time and I was a bit concerned that Goldie (the golden colored cow) wasn't around. She's kind of a loner, often hanging off just a bit from everyone else, but when I didn't see her this evening either, I figured I'd best go looking for her. She can be a bit aggressive, so I thought I'd get the four wheeler to check on her. On my way back to the house to get it, I saw her through the trees... and... what was that black thing trotting along beside her!?! Goldie had her calf! It's our first black calf - a "trim" as they call it because it has white on the face, leg(s), and tail. I haven't had a chance to get close, so I don't know the gender yet. It was moving around pretty good and nursing though, so that's a good sign.
As you might imagine, I'm a bit nervous. When you can lose a healthy calf in the blink of an eye, suddenly they seem very fragile. But, the weather is much nicer; it's supposed to be very mild tonight, so I think s/he will be all right until morning. I'll bring them in to the corrals tomorrow and get a better look at the baby and give it a once over... and maybe apply some fly prevention.
Despite the loss this week, a new calf always makes things seem a bit brighter. I think #7 is on deck next, but I'm not sure exactly how soon. Hopefully, she will bring us another wonderful surprise soon!
It's really my favorite way for it to happen... I like to go out and be surprised, surprised by a healthy calf that just suddenly is there. Nature did what it was supposed to and all went well. After last year's lost calf, I find I've become a bit of a nervous nelly.
Obviously, I knew they were getting close, but when I went out to move the yak today, I was surprised to hear that unmistakable quiet pig squeak yak babies make. Let me show you what I mean:
I just love baby yak! They're like an interesting combination of cow and pig in the first week or two. Their little yak grunt is more like a pig grunt and they even kind of look piglet like, with their big pink noses (they don't all have pink noses, but when the muzzle is white, the nose is pink!).
I love that I can go right in there and say hi to the calf... well, as long as mama is otherwise occupied! ;-) In this case, mama had already left the pasture with the group as I was moving them I had already closed the gate before we all realized what had happened. This is a little girl and though she's a bit knock kneed, I think she'll probably grow out of it. This is 100's new calf - she was the one who had the live calf last year - and she seems quite a bit more robust than last year's wee one was in the first week. This one tried to head butt me three times already!!!
100 is such a good mama, so I know that little one is in good hands. After I left there, I went to feed the elk and noticed that 603 hadn't come to eat with everyone else, so I went hunting for her. Figures I didn't have my good camera with me, so this was my first peek at the new calf. Don't know the gender yet, but the coloration is a bit different than the calves we've had so far. S/he is more taupe colored than ruddy. It's very pretty!
After getting my big camera, I realized they had moved and baby crawled through a hole in the fence to another pasture leaving mama behind. I was a bit worried when I saw two of the other cows come over and paw at her/him. I probably don't need to worry, but in the wild, the cows go off by themselves to have their calves, so this is a bit of an artificial environment for calving. I went to get a bit more grain and everyone left the little one alone and 603 managed to get in the same pasture with baby and all the others. Then the ladies went back to check on the calf, but mama was there to make sure they behaved themselves. I've seen this with every new calf on the place: the other mamas have to come and check them out!
Fortunately, baby was along a fence line that I had access to, so I went to see if I could get a better look and maybe a few good pictures. Success! But as I got closer, it became apparent to me that 603 is bonded with her calf. No worries with this first time mom that she won't be taking care of her calf. She made it very clear that I was close enough with my camera. This is a mama who would be more than willing to stomp the tar out of me if that fence wasn't there!
At this point, I decided it was time to high tail it out of there and let her just get used to being a mom. Love that close up I got of the calf though (top photo on this post). And you know what!?! I think there might be another yak calf making an appearance tonight! We'll see what the morning brings! What a wonderfully surprising afternoon!
I try really hard not to name animals that are being raised for meat. I love my animals, I want to give them the best possible life they can have, but I can't get tooooooo attached or things become really difficult down the line. However, sometimes, a name gets attributed to an animal due to circumstance. Take Piggy, for instance. That food motivated creature was such a pig when it came to food, we couldn't not call him that!
One of this year's calves has a really fluffy tushie. All elk have longer hair on their rumps. When they are agitated and their hackles are raised, the hair stands up a bit and makes them look bigger, I guess. It makes them look something, anyway! 604 tends to raise her hackles a lot and her rump gets fluffy plump, but she's got nothing on this wee one!
All the calves have fairly long hair on their butts right now, but this one is exceptional. When the light hits it juuuuussst right... well... it practically glows in its fluffiness.
You can see in this photo, that number 001 (a little bull calf) definitely has more fluff going on. He's the youngest of the bunch, but he's also the most nervous. I suppose it makes sense then, that he would put his hackles up a lot - but what a coiffure!
Now, listen, 001, there's no reason to get testy about my calling you "Fluffy Butt," it's all in good fun. ;-)
I mean, really, when you think about it, it's rather spectacular!! Thanks for putting a smile on my face, 001, every time I go out and see you're fluffy tushie glowing in the sun!!
This morning, the very first thing I did was go out to look at the baby. She was curled up in the grass sound asleep, but eventually mama convinced her to wake up and come over to the fence where I could get a better look at her.
She's still a bit wobbly on her feet, but she gets around pretty well. In this video, you can see her walking and talking. Oh, my goodness! Such funny little noises. Turn your volume up and listen for the little frog like sounds between mama's grunting. That's her!
And you're going to have to forgive me for this one, but did you know that Star Wars apparently modeled the AT-AT on baby yak? Don't believe me? Well, see for yourself!
All joking aside, though, she has to be one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
She looks so soft and fuzzy, it's all I can do not to go in there and snuggle with the little thing, but I'm pretty sure mama would have something to say about that.
She's a good mama. Even when she walks away a bit to graze, she's keeping a close eye on her little.
Pretty sure I'm not going to get much work done today. I think there may be a fair amount of baby watching in my schedule. Oh, darn. ;-)
If the poor girl hadn't been waddling around for weeks now looking like she had a beach ball between her legs, I'd have about given up on her ever calving! Her udder was all over the place... one day I'd go out and it'd be pretty swollen up and the next it would be a wrinkly old deflated bag. But lo and behold! Apparently, she calved this late afternoon. I'd looked out and seen her all day long and had not seen anything unusual until I went out to check the water around dusk and there she was, a cute little black and white speckled fuzz ball.
She must have been fairly new as she was wobbly and unsure of her feet, but she was dry and fluffy and mom was fussing all about her. Interestingly, Mr. Bull was a bit more assertive than usual as I approached the fence to get a peek. I think he might have been feeling a bit like a proud papa. ;-)
Baby was up and sucking for all she was worth. She was hungry; that being born is hard work!
She nursed and nursed!
As I walked down to fill the trough, they thought I was bringing them some grain, so they started coming across the pasture. That little baby was all wobbly but, just like the grown ups when they get excited, she was working her tail as she moved along. And her little hump. And her fuzz. My husband was right, at first glance, she looks like a little lamb, she's so fuzzy. Have I mentioned lately how much I love these guys?
While they were hanging around waiting for me to decide to get them some grain (clearly they never doubted that I would), mama and the young bull had a few "words." He's been a bit full of himself lately and she has not been bashful about telling him to stuff it. You go, girl!
Being dusk, getting good photos was a bit tricky and as soon as I turned around, baby was curled up sound asleep, so I'm really excited to go out tomorrow morning and say hello and get some new pictures of her. Rest up, little one! Welcome to the world!
It feels like I'm seeing our elk babies more often, earlier than I did last year. I'm not sure if it's just my perception or if that's really the case, but it seems like they're hiding less than Little Girl did last year. Maybe it's because there is more than one calf this year. Maybe it's because one of our cows is now an experienced mama. Or maybe I'm just more patient now that it's not my first go round.
The other night, as I was walking past the pasture after finishing my work up for the day, I could see 604 back in the corner of the pasture with both young calves (and Little Girl) while the other cows were out grazing. It was too far for a picture with my phone, so I just watched for a while before heading up for the house.
Just a little bit later, I looked out my kitchen window and saw that everyone came out to the buckets together! I ran to get my big camera and document the occasion. It's still a long way - thus the pictures aren't great - but you can get a nice peek at those two little calves.
The whole herd hung out for a while, both calves nursed, and the calves wandered around a bit. They're pretty steady on their legs now. I've occasionally caught glimpses of them doing the zoomies out in the pasture, but never for long enough to get a video yet. I look forward to watching them play together before too long!
And then I saw the hand off. 604 had done her time babysitting. Now it was 601's turn. She called the kids and they both got up and followed her dutifully. "Come on, kids, it's time to go!"
In the next photo, you can see 604 in the back left, and in the back right, you see 601 taking the kids off to go rest. I love watching the family/herd dynamics in this group.
Sometimes, I think we anthropomorphize animals too much, and then sometimes I realize that us animals are really all the same deep down. It takes a village! :-)