☆ May 25, 2010
It’s time for Daisy to get pregnant again! Frisco is five months old and is still “on the teat,” so to speak, and I am still milking ~ but this has nothing to do with Daisy getting pregnant again. In fact, if you notice the cycles of deer in the wild, you will know this is the way it works ~ deer have their fawns the first of June, nurse them through breeding season (November) when they become pregnant with another, kick their fawn off the teat the following spring when the new grass begins to grow, to give their bodies time to dry off and prepare colostrum for their new fawn, which is born at the beginning of June and the cycle continues. So, the fact that Daisy is actively raising a calf while forming another inside is normal and natural.
The only thing that is not totally natural is the timing. I am hoping to get Daisy bred now, instead of in the fall as the deer and elk do, so that she will calve the first of March, just before Mike’s cows do (cows have a gestation of roughly nine months). This way, Daisy will be able to provide colostrum and fresh milk should any of Mike’s cows have twins or abandon their babies. And for now, Mike calves in the early spring like the rest of the ranchers around here.
Daisy cycles every twenty-or-so days but there is just a tiny window of opportunity when she is READY to be impregnated. We are doing artificial insemination because, quite simply, there are no dairy bulls around here. And with AI, you can pick any breed of bull you fancy. Since I am hoping for a girl-calf this time, and since, according to both Charlie and myself, there is no such thing as too much cream, I chose sperm from a strapping Jersey bull. Daisy’s first calf was a heifer calf from a Jersey bull; her second calf is Frisco, via a Holstein bull. This will be Daisy’s third pregnancy, if it takes.
The key sign that Daisy is ready to be AI’ed is that she will stand for a steer (castrated male) as he mounts her. There are other signs. More nebulous signs. There is also a hormone one can give a cow to induce cycling but we’re going au natural. I should have been watching Daisy and taking notes since Frisco’s birth, tracking her cycles over the last few months, but that would have entailed planning ahead, and, well, I’m still learning how to be good at such sensible stuff. Therefore, I’ve been watching her obsessively ~ because this is my first time at this rodeo and because the man from whom I bought Daisy did mention that it was somewhat difficult to get her bred.
And so, after two weeks of watching Daisy, I saw on Saturday morning that she was standing, kind of, while being mounted by a steer. OK, it was Frisco. Banish your ewww thoughts. She was standing but kind of walking away so it wasn’t the exact stand I was on the lookout for, but it was very close. Her time was close. But I wasn’t sure how close. And it was Saturday morning and I knew I had my own very small window of time in which to reach my vet before Monday (Monday, which would surely ~ or at least perhaps? ~ be too late), as his office closed at noon on Saturday for the weekend.
My vet has been on standby for nearly a month and on Saturday morning I couldn’t get ahold of him. After a series of technical glitches far too boring to detail here but which felt, at the time, like one tragedy after another, I finally tracked him down on his cell phone late in the afternoon. By that point, I had crossed the threshold into panic and started blurting out everything, saying eight things at once, making no sense whatsoever, and he interrupted me and said, in his calm, singsong voice, “Do youuu know where I ammm right now?”
I wish you could hear his voice. It’s like the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. He IS the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. “No…” I answered, tentatively. “I’m in my rrrazberry patch,” he said. “Would you like some raspberries?”
I love raspberries, almost more than life, and so I momentarily ditched all thoughts of Daisy and my zealous blather became all about raspberries. “Alllright!” he said, “I’ll bring you some raspberry starts when I come to do Miss Daisy. I’ll see you tomorrow at eight.” Click.
OK, Caterpillar, whatever you say.
Eight to the Caterpillar means nine but I went down to the corrals at 7:30 to wait for him. I brushed Daisy from head to toe. I made her a fertility adornment which she wore for the procedure: three long blades of new green grass braided together and secured to her topnotch with a pink hair elastic. I paced around the corrals. And then it was time.
The entire procedure took less than five minutes. The vet took a thin straw of semen out of a huge tank filled with dry ice, warmed it in his armpit to get the swimmers swimming, and then gently threaded the straw through Daisy’s open cervix and set the swimmers free.
Daisy stood calmly, and that was that! I, however, was a wreck. I was hovering around while it was being done and after Daisy ate her fertility adornment and wandered off, and the vet left, I went home and drank warm milk in hopes of settling down. I was absolutely wound, and so very anxious. But this is just my cow. If she doesn’t end up pregnant with this try, we will try again, and eventually, I am certain, it will take. I simply cannot imagine enduring the tension and unknowingness and hope and chance that so many women must face each month in their own quest to get pregnant.
My heart goes out to those of you who are in the midst of living this yourselves.