Audhumbla had her first calf at the end of February. She went into labour in the evening and I checked on her every half hour after that. I was nervous that something would go wrong, so once I saw the feet coming out I sat in the corner and watched her. Just to make sure. When an hour passed and the calf hadn’t come any further, I started to worry and went back to the house. I did some quick research and realised the calf was the wrong way round. The way to tell is that the feet should be pointing downwards. But they weren’t, they were pointing upwards.
I woke Dan, and we prepared to pull the calf out. I was scared, for the cow and the calf. I washed my arms up to the elbows and felt inside, to check the position. (First time for everything!) I felt the legs and yep, it was the back legs that were coming out first. The only thing to do was to pull it out, while she was contracting. For me it was an almost overwhelming experience, but Dan was calm and focused as ever. The calf was out in under 10 minutes. It was a beautiful, slimy heifer. I thought that once the calf was out, that was our job done. But I was wrong.
Audhumbla reacted very strangely to her baby. As soon as she saw it she started bellowing desperately, as if horrified by the helpless creature that just came out of her. She seemed extremely upset and was pushing the calf away violently. She was so crazy that we had to tie her while we rubbed the calf dry with some old towels. It was so sad to see her rejecting the calf, and it was so helpless! We tried many times to leave them together, just to see if she would come round, but every time she pushed the calf hard with her head and bellowed and roared at the poor thing. In the end we helped the calf to suckle and then took her to the house, as she was starting to shiver. We wrapped her up in woolen blankets to keep her warm, and I slept downstairs with her to keep the fire going. In the morning I was woken by stumbling and clattering noises. She was standing up and exploring the kitchen!
The first day I carried her to the barn and had to tie Audhumbla so the little one could suckle. Then I milked Audhumbla, and took the calf back to the house. After that, when the calf was stronger, we kept her in a small enclosure next to her mother, where she was safe but they could see each other. We started to let Audhumbla outside again during the day, and her daughter could jump about in the large pen while mama was gone. It was wonderful to see her healthy and springing about, especially since our first calf (Hornfagr’s first calf) was so weak. Audhumbla did calm down in those first few days, but still made strange noises whenever she saw the calf! One day I decided to give her another chance, so I opened the door to the little pen and let her stick her head in to see the calf. She did a lot of sniffing and mooing and eventually licking, so I moved away and just stayed with them a bit, and realised finally she had accepted her baby! She still got a bit angry when the calf jumped around, but she wasn’t violent anymore and we could leave them together.
She certainly wasn’t the best mother in the world, and behaved completely normally when she was separated from the calf. She didn’t seem to mind at all when we took the calf away after a week, to slaughter it. It was of corse a terrible thing to have to do, but that’s how it is if we want to have milk. And we got a good deal of meat too! We loved and cared for that baby as fully as we could, and when the time came, she died well. Now we have half a years worth of schnitzel and we boiled stock from the bones. The cats got the head, feet, lungs and tail. (They weren’t so keen on the latter). I made a rather good heart and kidney pie, and the liver is waiting in the freezer for inspiration.
Now Audhumbla gives us around 12 liters of milk per day, so it’s been alot of work processing it all! I’ve started making hard cheese again, and have finally succeeded in making brunost! We’re getting crazy amounts of butter too, and I’ve made cream cheese, cottage cheese and two norwegian cheeses Pultost and Gamalost. For more about my most recent cheese-making adventures, read my next post!