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Tails of a bovine midwife-Maurenne's Cow/Calf Stories
Tails of a bovine midwife
A crazy woman's experience with birthing calves on the Kansas prairie
Welcome to my Bovine Midwife Archives. I kept a detailed diary of our first time experiences with calving in the Spring of 2000. I was in the second trimester of my fourth pregnancy at the time. Spring of 2001 is here and I'll be sharing this seasons experiences as well. You will learn more about our cows Bessie, Bossie, Miss Piggy, Dorothy and Star, and I'll share their birth stories with you. So far this spring, we've had three unassisted live births of calves weighing from 72 to 100 pounds!
Disclaimer-Some of the human birth junkies who visit this page will probably think I am insane. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I have vegan friends and colleagues and that's their business. I guess you could call me a carnivore as I find a medium rib-eye to be most enjoyable! If you think that slaughtering animals for food is inhumane, you probably don't want to read any further or you may be offended. Some of my analogies about mammalian birth may offend some people too. You just can't please everyone.
"My idea of a vegetarian meal is a turkey sandwich."-Baxter Black, DVM and Cowboy Poet
Philosophy:When I care for women, I use a holistic approach. I believe pregnancy and birth are normal, natural, and healthy processes. The knowledge of how to give birth exists within every woman and I work to instill in the mother confidence in her body's innate ability to give birth.
Carl and I followed a similar philosophy when caring for our cattle. Of course our cows don't read or go to childbirth classes. They just let nature take it's course. They've become a part of our family and it is truly amazing to witness such a large animal giving birth. And sometimes we had to intervene when complications arose. And we also lost a few.
I know some people think that cattle ranchers are the devil themselves, raising animals for meat. You will never meet people who care more for their animals than cattle ranchers. You invest a great deal of time and energy into their care. Think about how you have felt when a pet has been suffering or has died. Those are some of the same feelings we have experienced during our trials and tribulations of cattle ranching.
"When given a choice, a cow will always go out the wrong gate."-Baxter Black, DVM and Cowboy Poet
Background-Our house sits on a two acre plot of land in a private subdivision built around a 70 acre lake in Pottawatomie County, Kansas. My husband Carl had been wanting to purchase the acreage behind our house ever since we moved to Kansas in 1991. In 1994, the owners decided to auction the land off and we won the auction. Those of you who shop on eBay know how exciting winning an auction can be!
In the spring of 1996, Carl bought three stockers at our local cattle commission. Stocker is bovine talk for a castrated male that is fattened up for beef. We had three breeds represented in our first herd-Angus, Gelbvieh and Hereford. I named them Andrew, George and Howard, respectively. They ate our grass over the spring and summer. They were then confined to a small feed lot on our property where they were fed grain and hay daily. After 90 days of this, they were loaded into our yellow stock trailer, for some reason named Musturd Fartz (this really is painted on the side of it) and hauled off to the beef processing plant to, in my eldest daughter's words, "be cut up into meat".
So let it be known that cattle ranching and starting a cow-calf operation was NOT my idea and was my husband's hobby, NOT mine. But, over the years, I did get involved with everything from feeding and watering the critters to assisting with a c-section and pulling big calves out of their heifer mamas at 2 in the morning. Carl came to rely upon my knowledge of the nature of birth and after the experience, I can say that birthing calves and birthing babies are a lot alike. I'm sharing my experience more as a catharsis for me than for anything else. I don't equate women with cattle, though in the care of pregnant women, I find the medical profession sometimes treats women like animals. Sometimes I have to look back and wonder who the animal really is in those types of situations.
I hope you enjoy reading the Tails of a Bovine Midwife. As I upload my stories, I will hyperlink them to the pages where they reside.
Feeding and Calving Did you know that the time of day the cow herd is fed during calving season has been shown to influence when calves are born?
Preg Checking the Girls-How do you know when a cow is expecting? Well, she won't pee in a cup for you! Our dear vet showed us what it takes this fall and why it's so important to assess for pregnancy in cows. It helps if you have long arms like him and a lot of lubricant.
Uterine Prolapse-An almost certain death for women, almost commonplace in Hereford cows. All you need is a trash bag, an epidural, some umbilical tape with a needle and a fast veterinarian to fix the problem.
Bovine Glossary-Fer you city folks. What those words stocker, steer, heifer, cow, etc mean.
Hay You-My musings about being pregnant and feeding a herd of hungry pregnant heifers in wind, ice and blowing snow of a Kansas winter storm.
How do you know when a cow is due?-Those gestational wheels for humans come in real handy for calculating bovine due dates. So does a vet with a long arm.
She's in Labor-How do you tell a cow is in labor?
Trusting Mother Nature-Having trust in birth is hard when you lose your first two calves. Read Bessie's birth story here.
Silent Knife in a Corral-This isn't your routine cesarean birth. Read Bossie's birth story here.
Retained Placenta-What do you do when your cow hangs on to her placenta for over two weeks? Tie a milk jug to it.
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