This post is bittersweet for me to write. The afternoon that I originally planned on writing this post I ended up in the pasture, joyfully watching through binoculars one of our last cows give birth….that joyful moment quickly turned into a heartbreaking time for me as I held this beautiful stillborn calf’s head in my lap. Sigh. This was our first loss during calving. It.hit.me.hard. I understand that death happens on the farm. I understand that sometimes the outcome of a situation is completely out of your control. Even so, nothing could stop me from second-guessing myself, playing the what-if game and doing a play-by-play in my mind of every minute of that cow’s labor and delivery. Our good friend and mentor was a wonderful resource to me that afternoon. As I sobbingly explained the situation to him on the phone, he gently and wisely explained to me what had probably happened. I learned a tough lesson that day and I paid a high price for it. I hope I never have to encounter such a situation again but odds are, at some point in our farming future, I just may have to and I will be a bit more wise.
Like I said, this was our first calving loss. I was alone on the farm at that time, with Jer deep in the woods doing fieldwork and not expected home for another night and day. I was four months pregnant and our 2 1/2 year old son was in the house, napping. At that moment and for the next 24 hours until Jer came home, I had never felt so alone, so helpless and so lost. Waking up that next morning, I felt as if I had been hit by a semi-truck. When Jer got home that night, I explained what had happened. He was then faced with the heartbreaking task of fighting off this calf’s fiercely protective mother and moving the calf to a proper place to bury. The mother cow tried with everything she had to get that calf to stand. She cried for her baby. I cried for her. It was a blessing when Jer came home and was able to put closure on the situation by burying the calf. I had left the calf with its mom. With me being pregnant and alone on the farm with my young son, I could not risk trying to fight off the mom and remove the calf by myself. I love our cows but the safety of my son, myself and our unborn child comes first every time.
Life goes on, though, right? I still want to share the beautiful, joyful event that I witnessed a few weeks earlier. This being the birth of our 15th calf. The stillborn calf would have made #16.
A little bit of background. This is one of our three year-old momma cows. She produced a good calf for us last summer. She was actually our last cow to give birth last year, in early-July. Hers was definitely a late calving and not preferable but we still got a good calf. Amazingly, she cycled within 30 days of giving birth and was bred back immediately. We actually saw the breeding and we could not believe our eyes! Fast forward to a few weeks ago…I was doing an afternoon herd check and discovered this cow with the notorious bent tail and lots of diarrhea. She was also acting very aggressive and bullying a number of the other cows. Within the hour, she delivered a beautiful bull calf. Our our 15 calves born this year, this was the first birth I witnessed in person and I feel very blessed for that, especially after what happened two weeks later.
It is joyful events, like watching the birth of a live newborn calf, that helps to soothe the pain, and tip the scales back into the joy category. A very wise man told me to not let those painful times rob me of my joy. Looking back at the pictures below, I have to say that although I am sad at what happened, my heart is still full of joy at what we have and joy for what the future brings us.
The below pictures were taken using a very high zoom! To be able to capture this amazing moment, from a distance, was worth every cent our camera cost us!