Who doesn’t love baby cows? Well tonight we got the chance to learn about the maternity barn, the exact place where baby cows get to meet the Alexandre Family! But before we talk about that, let’s talk about the the upcoming Bucket Calf Show at the Fair! August 1, 2019 at 11 am (I think, but check the fair program) these amazing young children will be showing their calves in front of judges. Getting the animals ready for fair can be a lot of work. Some of the cows need a lot of training while others are naturally ready for the show ring. Tonight we heard from an experienced exhibiter who demonstrated to the young bucket calf participants how to hold the halter to lead the calf around. The kids practiced, some were successful, some struggled, but it is all about practicing.
The kids then broke into age appropriate groups so they could practice walking the cows around. The six and under group spent a little time learning how to hold the halter, but in reality mostly worked on how to get into a circle…The older groups worked on other techniques, such as leading the calf and how to publicly speak when asked various questions. My favorite group just talked about the most important thing the judges are looking for at the calf show, SMILING!
After practicing, the kids put their calfs away and moseyed on over to the maternity barn to learn all about the birth process. Stephanie provided valuable information about the birthing process and reminded the kids that cows and humans are different in their mothering instincts. While humans look forward to spending time with their families, cows are comfortable with their herds. After a mother gives birth, she can become anxious and want to return to their herd. Stephanie pointed out how relaxed the momma cows in the Maternity Barn were. She said that it is their goal, and their employees’ goal, to make sure these cows are well taken care of and this was evident by the cows who were currently laying around the Maternity Barn. Not one of them seemed to be distressed. Even as I was taking pictures, one of the momma’s came within a couple feet of me just to say hi.
In order for cows to produce milk they need to give birth to a calf. At the dairy, pregnant cows are separated from the milking herd about 2 months before they are due to give birth (they are classed as ‘dry cows’). When a cow is ready to give birth she is brought into the maternity barn, where she can have a clean, dry place. Here she can be monitored to make sure her birthing process is safe. As long as the calf is in the correct position for birth, the birth should not need any human assistance. During birth, both the calf’s feet emerge first, followed by his/her head. Once the birthing begins, it normally takes about 30 minutes.
When a calf is born the mother cow, and maybe a handful of other cows, lick the newborn. Within an hour of birthing, the mother is milked so the valuable milk (called colostrum) can be obtained to feed to the baby. The momma cow is so relieved to be milked because her udders are very full (The older the cow, the more milk she will have in her udders at the time she goes into labor). When the calves are born, they are very susceptible to illnesses, which is another reason they are separated from their mothers. Dairy farmers want to make sure their cows are well taken care of and they are able to produce healthy milk to sell to the public.
Next week we are going to learn all about milking a cow. Not to spoil it, but it doesn’t look anything like the next picture!