I started this week on piglet and calf watch. I was getting worried about my ability to tell a pregnant sow from one who wasn’t, because where were my piglets?! Maybe she was just fat. She kept separating herself from the herd, not showing up for breakfast, hollowing out all sorts of possible farrowing locations, but then the next day, she’d be up and about, hungry, not looking like she was going to have those piglets afterall. I was really starting to doubt my pig farmer credentials.
Ella Mae’s due date was August 24th. We know the precise date she got pregnant because we did it through Artificial Insemination, using semen from Gordon, a registered American Milking Devon bull from nearby Sullivan. Elly was loving all of the extra attention she was getting from me, but as the week went on and on, and Tropical Storm Danny was headed our way, with lots of rain forecast. I decided then that we were having a boy calf, we’d name him Danny, because he was going to be born at the most inconvenient time possible.
On Monday night, Frank and I were headed back to the house from feeding the pigs (no piglets, woe), and I noticed Gracie (an Icelandic ewe) seemed to be licking a white bucket or something. What had I forgot out there? I went over to investigate and it turned out to be two surprise lambs! A spotted ewe lamb and a black ram lamb with sugar lips, so he’ll look just like George and Gracie, that gorgeous gray pattern. So I guess when I put the rams back in with the ewes, she was still in heat. That’s crazy — we had our first lambs the first week of April, and when that happens, I’ve always assumed it’s safe to put the boys back in. Oh, well. I’ll take them! They are adorable. I’ve been spending lots of time out cuddling them this week, while still waiting for piglets and the calf.
The heavy rain started in Friday night, as forecast. Danny was no longer hurricane strength and we didn’t get any wind to speak of, but the rain was something else. Saturday morning, Elly was down in the corner of the paddock, by the swamp, having her calf in the pouring rain, just as I expected. Why stay in a shed when you can be out in the rain? We let her be until I saw she was licking off a calf, and then went down to see what she had. As expected, it’s a boy, and we will name him Danny.
We got them up into a shed, which was tricky. I pulled Elly’s halter and Frank carried the baby. Getting them both uphill in the pouring rain and slippery mud was less than fun, but it didn’t really take that long. We got him to latch to a couple of teats so that I knew he was getting a belly full of colostrum. That was pretty easy — a lot like doing it for lambs, and easier than it was with Polly when she was born. (Hell, we had to have the vet out to have her tubed, because I just couldn’t get her to latch.)
I’m really pleased with Ella Mae. All that worry about her prolapse, all that advise to cull her. I’m really glad I went up to the annual meeting of the American Milking Devon association and talked with her previous owner and other farmers who have the breed. They all told me that her prolapse was minor, vulva only, and her previous owner said she’d looked like that last time and didn’t have a problem with the delivery. That certainly was the case this time as well. Whew! I’m glad we took a chance. She’s been just a dream cow, temperament wise, and is being a good mama. Go Elly! Lots of people are assuming I’m sad we had a boy instead of girl calf, but I’m not, really. I’m happy to grow my own beef.
Then, last evening, after we got home from celebratory sushi, we were going to feed the pigs but noticed that all of that morning’s apples were still there. That’s odd. It’s not rare for there to be some food from breakfast still left at dinner time. I try to do that, actually, so I know we don’t have hungry pigs. But all of them? Hmmm. So we went to investigate.
Well hidden, we found Mina with piglets, and the rest of the herd was sort of surrounding her location. I pretty much just took the picture and left them all alone. She had them nursing, it was starting to get dark, and seemed to have it all under control. I went back this morning, all are dong fine, and I think there are eight piglets. Yay! I’m glad I was right and she was closing to farrowing. I think I get a bit of my pig farmer cred back now. The weather this week is supposed to be lovely, nevermind that she had them at the height of the rain.
What a day. What a week! It’s like spring time all over again with the sounds of babies all over the farm.