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Where are the lambs?

April 4, 2011

By Becky, Skills for the Future.

Well it’s the end of our first week of training in lambing, the problem is there haven’t been any lambs, and the sheep don’t look like they’re about to pop any time soon. But at least there have some births to compensate for the lack of lambs, in the form of calves.

How cute (the first of many)

The quote of the week comes from Jess: ‘Do all cows give birth to female calves?’

So we arrived on the farm nice and early on Monday morning to find a tiny little calf had been born early that morning. An adorable little female calf who we christened Cassy:

A lovely little Devon calf.

We then set about becoming farm hands for a few days, firstly we helped put new straw down in each side of the barn for the cows bedding. A longer process than it sounds as you firstly have to trap one sides cows in their bedding area, move the other sides cows to the feeding area of the opposite side and then start throwing around the straw from 3 bales to cover the area. And then vice versa. The cows also like feeding too, so each side is given two bales of silage.

Tractors and hay - proper farm stuff

After this the drama started. One of the cows was in labour, but she had stopped pushing. So Ashlea had to step in to lend a hand (and a whole arm). The calf’s head was bent backwards towards its chest and so wasn’t in the right position to be easily pushed out, which is why the cow had given up pushing. The head was so far down in the womb that it took Ashlea a long time to be able to manoevure it into the right position, and then with the help of rope around its legs the calf was brought into the world. We were all holding our breath the whole time, as the longer it took to find the head and be able to move it, the less time there was for the calf to survive, and we were a bit worried that it woudn’t make it. Once he was out there was a further worry as he had fluid on his lungs from when he’d spent time inside the cow and the birth sack had broken and so he was able to breath in fluids. So Ashlea hung him upside down to drain it out, and give it some medicine that would give it the kick start it needed after its eventful birh. We called him Colin.

A sigh of relief

Life for little Colin however was still rocky, his mum’s udders were so large that he couldn’t suckle them properly, so she needed milking to then be able to feed him by hand. This is important as the first milk she produces has colostrum in it, which helps the calves immune system as they aren’t born with one. So she was milked and it was poured into a bottle…… a wine bottle of course. The only thing to hand in a crisis.

Not something you see everyday

But our wee Colin didn’t really like the teat on the bottle (it wasn’t very much like the ones on udders) so he had to be feed by a stomach tube (I bet he regretted not liking the bottle).

I don't think he's impressed

After that ordeal is over he decided to take a bit of a lie down. It’s been a dramatic time for only a few hours old Colin.

Cassy makes sure Colin is ok

We spent the rest of the day making up the pens for the lambs when they do finally arrive, and resowed one of the fields.

Another task this week was to muck out the bulls pens – obviously not whilst the bull was in it of course. We all came out smelling quite a bit after that.

John does what John does best

Getting stuck in.

More births happened over the weekend, and by the time we’d arrived today the calves hanging out in the pens by the barn were all different from the ones we’d seen last week. The other calves and cows had been moved to the field once they’d had their ear tags, had their navels treated with iodine and were strong enough. We noticed that a cow was giving birth and after a while watching we thought we’d go and check on the cows in the field and leave her to it. So off we went to find Colin (and the others).

Loving the grass after being inside all winter


Of course the cow in labour had given birth by the time we all got back. But later on we did manage to see another cow giving birth, just as we were about to start putting new bedding in the barn. You really do have to make it up as you go along.

Feet poking out

And there is the rest of it

The final job of the day was to feed one of the calves born at the start of last week. It’s mum doesn’t have any milk, and Ashlea suspects that she had an infection last year that went untreated and now her udders are just full of scar tissue and so if she was producing milk then there is no where for it to be stored. Bottle feeding a cow….. fights insued over who got to do it. Luckily there was enough milk for everyone to get a turn.

A very friendly calf.

And finally…

'Can we take her home'

One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris Senior permalink
    April 11, 2011 5:16 pm

    Lovely account 🙂 I do hope the lambs start ‘popping’ for you soon.

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