Getting Ready for the Birth of a Calf

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With our Jersey heifer due to calve any day, we’re busy getting the barn ready for the birth of the calf!

Honey is our two-year-old Jersey heifer and she will be delivering her first calf within the week. We have been waiting for over a year and a half for this event. Soon we will be enjoying her delicious, fresh milk!

Signs that the calf is coming soon

As her due date approaches, we are keeping a very close eye on Honey for any signs that she will be delivering soon. We check her frequently throughout the day for changes in her appearance and behavior.

Rosehips & Honey Getting Ready for the Birth of a Calf

Her udder is full and growing so now we are waiting for her teats to fill as well. This will signal that she might just be hours away. Her pin bones (on either side of her tail) have grown apart which is another great sign.

All of these and other changes tell us that the calf will be coming soon but unfortunately, there is no exact way to predict when a cow will calve. We just have to be patient and watch closely, it will come when it is ready!

Preparing the heifer for labor

Besides caring for Honey like we always do, we have made an extra effort to ensure her comfort during this time. We had lined her stall with extra hay so she has a comfortable place to lay down. We have added an extra water trough to her stall as well. Her large trough is outside in her pasture but this way she doesn’t have to go far to get a drink if she doesn’t want to.

Rosehips & Honey Getting Ready for the Birth of a Calf

We usually keep her stall door open 24/7 so that she can go in and out as she pleases. However, in these finals days, we are securing her in at night. This way, she will be safe from any predators if she goes into labor during that time.

Of course, lots of extra affection and attention are in order as well! She appreciates the extra scratches and brushing.

Making space for the calf

We have several stalls in our barn so the calf will have its new home next to Honey. We spread a thick layer of straw down to make a comfortable, warm bed. It will have plenty of space to walk around and explore. The stall has its own door so the calf will have access to the outside as well.

There isn’t much else that the calf will need in its stall yet, other than a small water trough, so we’re all set.

Rosehips & Honey Getting Ready for the Birth of a Calf

Other items to have on hand

It doesn’t take much equipment to welcome a new calf but we have a few items ready if needed. A stack of old, clean towels will be used to dry the calf and keep it warm after it’s born. It’s fall here in the interior of Alaska so our temperatures are dipping down into the low 40’s and high 30’s. This will be chilly for the new calf so we will need to make sure it is dry and warm right away.

We have a few jars of molasses and some five-gallon buckets ready to make Honey some molasses water to drink after the delivery. This will help fill her rumen and give her some energy after all of that hard work. We also keep emergency medical supplies on hand just in case including a thermometer if we need to check her temperature and calcium if milk fever threatens.

Our new milking machine is assembled, washed, and working. We will milk Honey for colostrum within the hour after delivery. The calf’s bottle is washed and ready so that we can feed it as soon as possible.

Rosehips & Honey Getting Ready for the Birth of a Calf

Waiting for the calf to arrive

Now all that is left to do is be patient. We think Honey is still a few days away but only time will tell. The calf will come when it’s ready but we can hardly wait. Check back soon for an update on Honey and our new calf!

More about our cow

You can read about Honey and when we brought her home here.

Read Joann S. Grohman’s Keeping a Family Cow for more information about having a calf.

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