Have you ever had one of those weeks (or weekends… or let’s be honest, months), where everything is coming at you and you’re simply exhausted when it’s over?
It’s not that everything that’s keeping you busy is bad, per se. It’s just that you feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone for a moment. You’re unsure of what’s coming next.
The weekend I’m talking about is when our friends from Chicago area trekked five hours south to visit us. We had a lot of fun! They helped us butcher our meat chickens, and we finished off the weekend swimming, grilling, and practicing our shooting skills. But even though friends are fun, I find that hosting friends or family really wears me out, not gonna lie.
And then our cow went into labor.
And it wasn’t looking good.
Fancy is an Irish Dexter cow that we bought as a bred heifer a few years ago. Dexters are a small dual-purpose breed of cattle. They are known for milk and meat production. A lot of homesteaders like to have Dexters because their small size makes them easy to handle and butcher at home.
This was going to be Fancy’s 3rd calf. Her first was a stillborn and her second is our bull calf, Ferdinand, that we will be butchering next year.
She’s been a good cow so far. Very gentle with the kids. And she loves treats!
But her whole hind end was coming out as she pushed (sorry if that’s TMI, ha).
She went into labor on Saturday, and by Sunday evening the vet, our neighbor who has the bull we bred her to, and other family members all agreed that the calf was probably dead and that there was no way Fancy would survive either.
As a mother who’s had 3 kids, I felt so awful for her watching her push with no progress.
Even though we butcher our cows for our own nourishment–and some people would say that’s cruel–it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about their wellbeing or lament their loss.
As a last ditch effort, Hayden and the vet decided to give her a large dose of a hormone they use to induce the sows on the hog farm. The vet didn’t think she would survive a C-section, so that was off the table.
If the calf was dead and the cow might die, too, we might as well try something. They gave her the shot Sunday evening.
On Monday morning, Hayden went out to check on her. She had a water sack hanging out. When Hayden called the vet, the vet exclaimed that we might have a live calf! We needed to try and pull the calf.
Minutes later, Hayden had the legs out and we were pulling with all of our might. We were still unsure if the calf was going to be alive, but we knew that maybe Fancy might have a chance.
Suddenly, the legs twitched. The calf was alive! But we needed to get this calf out and we weren’t making progress. All that was out were two front legs and a tongue. We were pulling so hard we were moving Fancy across the ground.
Finally, we called the vet. “Push the legs back in and make sure the head is between the legs. Then, pull again.”
Hayden did exactly that, and mere seconds later our little calf was born. ALIVE.
But we still weren’t in the clear, because Mama was trying to prolapse (push her uterus out). Thankfully, the vet came by on his day off with his little infant daughter in the car (I had to hold her for a bit; she was cute!) and he stitched Fancy up to prevent a prolapse.
And guess what? Mama and Baby are doing great, now!
Our neighbors, friends, and the vet were all thrown for a loop when this happened. If you would have seen her on that Saturday and Sunday, even you would have been perplexed.
So, why did I tell you this story?
Well, honestly, I still can’t believe that Fancy and her calf survived.
And maybe this story will help you navigate your own livestock births on your farm or homestead. Hope may not be lost, even when everyone else thinks so.
But also, this experience was quite stressful for (somehwat) newbies like us. I was raised on a farm with cattle, and I’ve had my hand up the hind end of a cow trying to pull a calf before. Hayden has been pulling pigs for years, too.
But this was the first time we were doing this on our own.
We didn’t know what the right answer was.
But, wow, did we learn a lot.
We have to go through hard things in order to learn and grow.
In Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he discusses how financially smart people are not afraid of losing money, because they know when they do, they will learn something.
This concept can be applied over and over again.
So many people come up to me and say they wish they could “grow flowers like yours” (I have a flower farm if you didn’t know) or that they wish they had a green thumb.
Do you realize how many plants I have killed learning how to grow plants? So, so many.
But the point is, I’ve learned through experience.
If you want to do anything, you need to experience it. So today, I encourage you to take a step towards one of your goals.
For example, at this time, I have a goal to become a master rosarian in my lifetime. I decided that some months back. Basically, that means I want to know a lot of stuff about roses.
So, guess what I’m doing? I’m growing roses. I’m reading and watching videos about roses. I’m sharing what I know about roses.
And I’ve already had issues, but hey–it’s about the journey. Not the destination.
Hayden wants to become a grassfed cattleman. So, here we are, researching cattle, raising cattle, and experimenting with different cover crops and pasture mixes. We have a long ways to go, but we’re taking it one step at a time.
It’s about the journey. Not the destination.
If you want to grow a beautiful cottage garden, get control of your health, learn how to solder sterling silver, write a novel, butcher a chicken, raise cattle, invest your money, bake sourdough bread, fly an airplane, etc., then you have to take a leap of faith.
So, I invite you to write down and reflect on these questions, my friends.
Where do I want to be in the next 5 to 10 years? What journey can I embark on today? What steps can I take to get started?