I write about our experiences here on the farm and I usually try to find something humorous to pass along. I tend to shy away from the darker side. Lest you believe that farming is all comedy, I’ll tell you about yesterday.
Gertie, one of our young, pregnant heifers, is a sweet, petite Lowline Black Angus. We had not planned on breeding her last year, but the borrowed bull had different ideas 9 months ago. We knew she was close to going into labor, but we had to make an overnight trip to Charleston on Sunday.
As soon as we arrived home Monday morning we headed out to check on everyone. Steve was in the RTV when he spotted her and he gleefully called me and told me Gertie was laying down in the back of the pasture, in labor. I have no idea how long she had been there, but our farm sitter had checked on everyone early in the morning and all was calm.
Gertie was in hard labor, desperately trying to deliver her first baby, but we could tell the calf was large and Gertie was having difficulty. It is always a challenge knowing when one should intervene, but we had no choice but to get close. The calf was stuck, with only it’s nose and one hoof visible. The calf, unfortunately, was already dead.
Our sole focus shifted to saving Gertie’s life. Steve and I, with the help of our neighbor, spent the next 90 minutes delivering that dead calf. It was brutal. I feverishly worked on coating the inside of the birth canal with soapy water in an attempt to add lubrication, while Steve and John took turns pulling. We were trying to work with Gertie and her contractions, but she was becoming exhausted and was giving up on pushing. Finally, pulling together, Steve and John freed the calf from her mama, the force so great that both men tumbled to the ground.
I took in my first glimpse at a lifeless, but perfect brown and black bull calf. With his head right at my feet, I convinced myself for a brief moment that maybe he was still alive, maybe it was going to be okay…….but the reality wasn’t going to change, no matter how much I wanted it. Poor Gertie, the calf was just too big for her to deliver without assistance and we didn’t find her soon enough. I snapped a picture of that dead baby, but quickly deleted it……it seemed obscene.
We spent the next hour in silence as we dug a grave and gave that baby boy a proper burial. We were stunned and remain that way even today.
So I sit here typing and looking out to the pasture. I can see Gertie restlessly walk over to where she delivered that baby and then moo frantically in an attempt to call her baby over to her. I can do nothing to ease her pain and my heart breaks every time I hear her call out.
Yes, living closer to nature is how I choose to live, but there are times when I wish I could be anywhere but here.