Sigh. There’s no calf yet, at least not outside of June’s body. All the signs are there. Her tail’s loose as are the muscles around the birth canal. Her pin bones are low, her bag is filling up, and every day there are gooey strands wrapped around her tail. That cow! I swear she’s doing this on purpose.
Every morning, as soon as I open the gates, she’s on her way to my neighbor’s corral. That’s where she stays for the whole morning. If I’m watching, she has a few regular contractions, spews a little goo, and gets a good giggle at faking me out. Just in case you’re cow-knowledgeable, I want you to know these aren’t grunty, I-got-a-little-twist-in-my-gut pang. These are legs-stiff, tail-kinked-over-the-back contractions. After she’s spent the morning moving that calf a millimeter closer to the outside world, she gets up and goes back to grazing.
I wasn’t prepared for this version of calf delivery. None of my previous cows have had a start-and-stop birthing. Instead, at about three weeks out, each one explored the property and came up with “the spot,” then they went back to grazing non-stop until the moment arrived. At that point, they walked back to their spot and dropped their calf in about an hour and half.
When I still didn’t have a calf by Thursday, I got worried, especially when June’s nose felt unusually warm. Was the calf dead? Many thanks to Phil, the ranch manager at Tres Hermanas. He came over, checked June, then checked the calf. If you don’t know how that’s done, it requires inserting your arm up to the armpit inside the cow. He said when he pushed on the calf, the calf pushed back. Whew. Not dead. But then, why is she waiting?
I blame the coyotes. Until Monday night, there hadn’t been a coyote near the place in months, certainly not since June arrived. Starting Monday night, they’ve circled the farm at least three times a night. They can smell her hormones. They know she’s getting ready to deliver and they’re hoping to be at hand the moment that calf drops.
I think they scared June. I think she sucked that baby right back in and that’s where she’s keeping it until I agree to let her deliver in my neighbors’ corral.
It’s clear to me that June was raised with pipe fencing all around her. To her, those even lines of metal tubing mean safety. What she doesn’t know is that the corral sits right on the edge of about 6 acres of wasteland. I’ve got news for her. The coyotes would be under those panels in an instant and the mountain lion could jump over them with ease.
Elena offered to let me put Bear in their pasture while June had an overnight in the corral. That’s not something I can do to anyone, especially someone I like. Love that dog, but he’s got a deep resounding bark, and he barks all night long. I’ve learned to tune him out, because his barking is meant to warn predators off. I worry when I hear Moosie barking.
Which brings me to this inconvenient truth. It’s not Bear who needs to stay with the cow, it’s midwife Moosie. Not only would he help with the birthing, but, once ‘his’ baby is born, there’s not a predator in theworld that would get through him to hurt that newborn. But if the coyotes can get into the corral, Moosie can get out. He’d love nothing more than a little walkabout in the wilds. He could do a little hunting. His preferred prey would be the herd of javelina that lives in there.
Since that’s not happening, every evening I disturb June’s apparently carefully planned delivery procedure by bringing her home. She, being the bossy pants that she is, throws a snit and refuses to give me her calf. I have news for her. I know exactly who wins this war and precisely how it ends.
If only I knew when!