We have had almost every conceivable birth difficulty and defect here this year. Waiting and watching for babies is pretty constant for much of spring, summer and autumn.
Firefly was born to Tinkerbell in mid winter. He was all wonky from the first and only after all day of waiting for him to stand up did we realise something was very amiss and whisk them both into the house paddock. We didn’t know if he would make it, did a lot of googling and realised he was ‘windswept’, his legs might straighten or not. But first we had to milk Tinkerbell for the colostrum and try and get that boy on the booby. We soon gave up and brought him into the house by the fire and gave him two hourly feeds. We even had to take him to town with us and leaving him with friends for a few hours each while we went shopping. We got some very strange looks unloading him from the back of the car at the beach for a quick bottle stop! We took him to the vet who splinted the legs and after quite a lot of fiddling to get them right we trained those legs to stand straight and he is an absolute delight. Our kissing and cuddling cria to this day.
We had our first twin lambs but one was weaker and couldn’t get on the booby. I had my first experience of milking a ewe to get some colostrum for him and try and tempt him on to the teat. I guess we should have just taken him away and bottle fed him and we will know for next time, but we lost him, he walked away from his mum in the night and got out of the pen and was dead in the morning. Always a heartache, what a waste.
Then there was Bambi, just came home one day and there she was. Gorgeous doe eyed suri out of Caroline. After doing twice and thrice daily drive bys for weeks, Artimesia birthed when no one was watching and obviously had problems. Because we found her and the baby not long dead, who had obviously died in the birthing process. Wendy we found with a dead baby stuck half in and half out and I discovered the infinite joys of KY jelly and gloves (as opposed to bare hands) when inside and pulling. Poor Wendy. Though she seems much happier to be free of Motherhood and with Peter Pan finally off the boob.
Sapphire birthed little black Lucky on the day we rolled the car and it was wonderful to get home and find a little shadow present for us after what had been a truly horrible and traumatic day. Blossom birthed on the day the lovely sheep shearer came. Found the afterbirth but no baby. There were five of us looking down the riverbank and among the she oaks but no sign all day. Just bizarre. That night Ged went out to shoot a wild dog we knew was around and found instead a cria roaming, looking for his Mum. Ged had gun raised and him in his sights until he saw the long neck. Good thing my man is all sense and eagle eyed, especially with a gun in his hand.
Blossom was so pleased to be reunited with the boy she thought she had lost, so we called him Lost Boy and he got straight on the booby no trouble at all. Then Charity birthed another little boy child who had a hard time getting on the boob and seemed weak and she seemed distressed. We came home from town and found him roasting in the sun down by the river and hauled him up under the lemon tree in the house paddock while I found bottle, teat and cria milk. It was only after his second bottle that I thought to check his bum, something we were told to do with all newborns. No anus opening. Shit!
So I left him with Mum and rang Ged, the vet and Ged again. There was no way we could afford a new arsehole two weeks before Christmas and the vet said the prognosis was not good. Back and forth I went on the phone, to the shed, to Charity who looked at me beseechingly saying ‘do something, do something’ and to that strong little boy who was so determined to live. I even tried to make the cut myself and learned that while vets make it look easy, it’s not. I called him Hope because ‘where there’s life, there’s hope’ and the next morning when he was still as determined to stay here as ever, and both the Bowen ladies had concurred that he just needed a simple cosmetic procedure. I rang the vet again but they couldn’t do him, so rang another vet, struck a deal with him re cost and raced Hope back out to the road so the Bowen ladies could take him into town.
Phew! $500 or so later he is just fine, no problems at all, a feisty, bouncing boy and Charity was so happy to have him home and well. She lost her little Christmas last year, we had to save Hope to give her hope . . .
And then there was Ruby. Born while our beloved Grippers were here after Christmas with one blood red eye (hence her name) she wouldn’t stand up, her neck was bent, she had a strange one eyed view of the world and we worked out that she was almost certainly blind. And after a week of trying to get her on the boob and bottle feeding her, and spending lots of time on Google, we realised she had the very rare choanal atresia which meant that she couldn’t breathe through her nose. She would progressively turn blue while drinking her bottle. We had to say enough and let her go.
Each one has a name, a personality, a soul and heart. Letting any of them go is really hard.
The rest of the lambs were rams and now the cows are setting their burdens on the ground. First Paddy, our Jersey cross whose udder is progressively bigger with each baby and each time we say ‘no more’ but she always finds her way to a bull somewhere! She birthed lovely little Melissa a few days ago and Ged and I had to milk the colostrum out and bottle feed her. I finally really got the hang of milking and feeling the chamber fill and release – beautiful. Then, having persuaded her to latch onto one teat, I had to try and train her to try the other side which is lower and with a stumpier teat. Anybody who ever says breast feeding is easy is a fool – best, yes, but rarely easy!
Honey birthed down in the rain yesterday no dramas at all and just turned up at the house with a littlie going great guns at the milk bar, the rain is so atrocious we haven’t got close enough to sex it or name it, but Ged thinks it is a boy which will fill the freezer later – poor Honey, she needs to have a girl so she can keep it close.
Here’s hoping the rest of the calves and cria come easily and no more problems, we have had a steep learning curve this year, but each experience gives us knowledge, hardens our hands (if not our hearts) and makes us more like farmers . . .