☆ May 31, 2011
On Thursday afternoon, I knew Daisy was going to have her baby that night or first thing the next morning. Delicious grass is growing all over the place and usually the cows wander the property, grazing all day long. But on Thursday afternoon, Daisy walked herself down to the corrals and I found her standing in the grassless sheltered section where she had birthed Frisco, looking into the middle distance, in a zone. Frisco and another heifer were down there, too – they follow Daisy wherever she goes – nosing around the empty hay bunk. They wanted to eat; Daisy was not interested in food.
Frisco also obediently follows the red-handled horse brush – he loves to be brushed – and I used this to lure him and the heifer out of the corrals. I locked Daisy in, with a huge pile of hay to eat and straw to nest in, and Frisco, for the first time, had to navigate the wide world on his own (with his heifer friend). He’s been such a mama’s boy his entire life, I wasn’t sure how he would react to the separation, but he’s did a fine job. Became a man, even, as much as a steer can. He and Daisy spent three days apart and Frisco was patient and generous, not at all needy or lonely or whiny. And even now, he spends more time with the heifer and the goose instead of clinging to Daisy. He adores his little sis but seems to understand the current order of things.
I left Daisy by herself, checked on her that evening, and at that point I really believed her baby would be born just after sunrise on Friday morning. When I woke at dawn, I had my usual morning rituals with Charlie and Chloe and the cats and coffee and did a bit of work. I was in no rush to get to the corrals, even though I knew Daisy was having her baby. Daisy prefers to do these things on her own – I could sense that last year, with Frisco’s birth, but bugged her anyway – and this year I decided to let her have the birth the way she wanted it, in peace, like a cow, without me.
And then, one moment, everything shifted gears. I pulled on jeans and boots and was like, “It’s time to go down there!” Right now! And I kind of speed-walked down to the corrals, so curious about what I might find. From afar, I could see Daisy, standing, and then some movement around her legs. At first, I couldn’t tell if it was a barn cat, but with a few more strides down the trail I could see the staccato movements of gangly calf legs. Daisy’s calf was standing but still completely wet – Daisy hadn’t, at that point, cleaned off more than the calf’s face – which means the birth occurred literally less than five minutes before I got down there.
Daisy was attentive to the calf and happy to see me, and soon Ricardo showed up, along with a barn cat.
We all hung out for a timeless spell – an hour? two hours? Daisy birthed her placenta and ate it up, and the curious calf discovered that those things are very slippery.
And this time, when the calf was ready to find a teat, Daisy stood patiently and let her suckle without any drama. I milked Daisy throughout the day, just sitting beside her in the corral as she licked her calf and munched on hay. Frisco came by to say hi, curious and doting, as always, and then wandered off again with his new heifer friend. I kept Daisy and her calf together in the corrals for a few days, and today, a beautiful sunny day, I opened all the gates to let them roam the place. And the bovine family met up (sans Sir Baby who is off doing bull duties) and spent the day grazing together. Frisco front and center, Frisco’s heifer friend to the left at the edge of the frame, Ricardo, the white form just above Frisco, and Daisy nursing her calf:
Now, in regards to her name. That first day, the day of the birth, I could feel the calf’s name in my mouth. I could feel it, but couldn’t figure out what it was. But MJ knew. So many great names were left in the comment section of the “Redhead” post, and one was the name for this particular calf. When I read the name “Fiona,” it fit like a puzzle with what I was feeling in my mouth. And I went down to the corrals and softly called out ‘Fiona,’ and this sweet, gorgeous calf got up from resting in the sun and walked over to me.