Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Guest Post By Michelle Mather
As Cam has mentioned in previous posts, we have often had the pleasure of hosting one or more of our neighbour Alyce's "big pets" during our time here at Sunflower Farm. We've had lots of horses and ponies spend time here and even though we don't ride, we've always enjoyed watching them and appreciated the way that they mowed down the grass in the paddock and provided manure for our garden too!
More recently Alyce has acquired a herd of Highland cattle, a breed known for being very hardy and able to cope with extreme weather conditions. These cows have a very thick, shaggy coat and long, curved horns. A couple of Alyce's cows are pregnant and so we offered to turn our paddock into a "Highland cow nursery" where the pregnant cows could graze and give birth in peace away from the rest of the herd, and where Cam and I would be able to keep a watchful eye on the expectant ladies.
"Betsy" arrived a couple of weeks ago but has not given birth yet. On Thursday night Alyce and Ken arrived with "Aggie" who has actually spent time in our paddock previously. Aggie was abandoned by her mother and so Alyce bottlefed her and eventually brought her here until she had grown big enough to join the rest of the herd. Her arrival here on Thursday night wasn't exactly "uneventful" as Cam will describe in a future blog.
On Friday morning I headed out to the vegetable garden at about 7 a.m. Cam and I like to get as much of our watering and weeding done early in the morning, before the sun and the heat and the bugs make it less enjoyable. I glanced over at Aggie and Betsy as I headed to the garden and they were both peacefully grazing with no sign of the excitement that was about to transpire!
Over the next hour as I watered and weeded I noticed that Aggie seemed restless. She would lay down and then get back up again as if she couldn't get comfortable. She also made some sounds that I hadn't heard her make before. Just before 8 a.m. I looked up and thought that I could see something sticking out of her back end. I went over to investigate and she came close enough to the paddock fence that I could see what looked like hooves coming out of her back end! YIKES!
I ran into the house and called Alyce. She said she'd be right over so I ran out to the garden to alert Cam. He grabbed the camera from the house and we headed back to the paddock. Aggie appeared to be back to grazing with her head down in the tall grass. Then we realized she wasn't grazing - she was licking her brand new baby all over!!! The birth had happened that quickly!
Alyce arrived and together we watched as Aggie licked her new baby dry. (Betsy was also intrigued and helped Aggie with this task!) Within an hour of birth, the little one was already attempting to stand and successfully did so. The baby seemed to know exactly what to do next as it kept heading towards Aggie's udder. Aggie wasn't so sure about that part of motherhood and at first she kept moving away from the baby. At last we watched the little one take her first drink and we relaxed with the knowledge that, once again, nature provides these creatures with such strong instincts.
Needless to say having a baby cow in the paddock has been incredibly distracting and I keep finding myself at the paddock fence watching as the baby cow explores her new world. One minute the baby is prancing through the long grass. The next time I look she's curled up asleep as Aggie grazes peacefully nearby.