It’s been an exciting season on our little homestead and this was certainly the main event. Our dairy cow, Honey, finally went into labor! Read all about the birth of our first Jersey calf.
The Beginning of Labor
Honey, our Jersey dairy cow, has been pregnant for the past nine months. With her due date approaching, we kept a close eye on her and checked her frequently for signs of labor.
On the afternoon of Friday, October 2nd, I was outside checking on Honey as usual. She was grazing as usual so I went into the house. All of a sudden, Lily came in shouting “Honey’s having her calf!” I ran outside thinking the calf was really coming but thankfully labor was just beginning. This gave my husband time to come home from work and for us to finish making preparations.
Although we were excited and anxious, we wanted to give Honey privacy. We kept an eye on her from a distance while she labored outside. You can see in the photograph below how her tail is off to the side and she is hunched over.
After being outside for almost an hour, she finally made her way into her stall in the barn. I snuck into another stall to continue monitoring her. I wanted to make sure that the calf was in the right position. Sure enough, I finally saw two little hooves appear.
Watching the Birth
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect view of the birth! Honey was in her stall with her back end facing us as we watched, very quietly, from the other side of the barn. It was amazing to be able to watch the whole process and for our girls to see a new life come into the world.
Soon the little nose and mouth appeared and we saw the eyes blink. We were relieved to know that the calf was alive. Typically, the cow will lay down right before the birth so we kept waiting for this. However, Honey wanted to do it her own way and stood the whole time. Finally, the calf was born and the poor thing had a bit of a fall right from the start!
Caring for the Calf
James ran in to check the calf and it was just fine. A heifer, what we were hoping for! Because it’s already chilly here in the interior of Alaska, we needed to dry her off and warm her up right away. We already had a stash of old beach towels ready so we grabbed those and the girls started gently rubbing her and cleaning her up.
James carried her into the house for a little more warmth and when she was totally dry we brought her back down to the barn.
The First Feedings
Feeding colostrum within the first hour is extremely important to the life of the calf. Once Honey had settled down a bit, we milked her. Thankfully, the calf had no problems drinking the colostrum.
Once we got some colostrum in her a few times during the first 24 hours, she worked her way up to one gallon of fresh milk every twelve hours.
Spending Time With the Calf
Being able to watch the birth of our first Jersey calf was an unforgettable experience. We were so thankful that it didn’t happen during the night when we might have missed it.
Now we can spend time with her throughout the day and give her attention. The girls like to sit in her stall reading a book and she will curl up next to them. She loves having her neck scratched, just like her mama. And when she’s really excited she prances around and does little jumps! She is so adorable and we’re very grateful that she’s finally here.