I returned from a trip to town in the morning to find one cow hiding in the trees away from the others. That was a clear sign something was happening. That cow had already given birth to a nice calf that was already up and walking strong.
While trying to take pictures of that one, I spotted another heifer in the beginning stages of labor. She had her tail slightly up and you could see the new baby's feet starting to come out.
I grabbed my cell phone to call my husband who was off the farm at the time, and parked my car to watch and see if the cow would make progress pushing the calf out on her own. When my husband arrived about 20 minutes later she had made no progress. He didn't take any chances, but started to lure the cow to a small corral using some feed. That's often the most time consuming and frustrating part of the process, getting a cow into a chute to actually help in the delivery.
Time was ticking and we did not know if the calf was alive or dead. Either way it had to come out.
Once inside the chute, my husband worked alone to reach into the cow and assess that the calf was still alive. (I was holding the camera!) In a difficult case he uses a calf jack, like a come-along, to gain leverage. With chains attached to a baby's front feet, the jack helps guide out the baby feet and head first. This baby heifer was a large one, weighing an estimated 75-80 pounds.
It was alive, but extremely tired from the delivery. While the wet newborn waited for momma, my husband milked the cow then bottle-fed the calf to ensure it got nutrition right away. When the mama cow was released, she went straight to her calf and sniffed him out thoroughly. She was very protective as I lurked close by with a camera.
I checked on them later and the calf was already on its feet ready to nurse.
By tomorrow, both mother and baby will be back in the pasture with the rest of the herd. In the meantime, we'll be watching the rest of the first calf heifers to be sure their delivery goes well.