After days of watching and waiting, it is finally over! Our new calf has arrived! Margie, our family milk cow calved on Thursday night. We have known that it was close for over a week and well, you know the saying, "a watched pot never boils?" It is true of cows too! Margie took her own sweet time but what a relief to wake up Friday morning and see the adorable little calf following her in the pasture. You might wonder how we knew it was close to time for the new calf. There are several signs that calving is close. The first sign is the date - cows have a nine month gestation just like people do! So, I always mark on the calendar when we breed her. The next sign is physical, she loses her mucous plug - we saw the mucous on her hiney about a week ago and have been watching closely. Another sign is the way she carries the calf, it changes and looks lower on her body. And, the biggy is that her udder swells and then the teets fill out and can even begin to drip. You can see it below. If you look back and compare it to how it looked after we dried her off, well, it was just saggy and baggy - poor Margie! Maybelle is a heifer (a female) and right now we plan to keep her and see how her temperament is as to whether or not she will make a good family milk cow. Her father was a mix of Jersey, Angus and Hereford. Margie hides Maybelle in the brush while she goes grazing. But, she doesn't like to get too far from the hiding place. So, if you want Margie to come to the milking parlor, you have to carry Maybelle. Then, Margie comes following behind. Maybelle's coat is so soft and it looks like her hind feet have socks on them. She has been nursing on Margie since birth but yesterday (Sunday), we separated the two of them so we could begin milking. I know, it is sad but they get used to it and quickly Margie seems to forget about her. From now on, we will bottle feed Maybelle. This serves a couple of purposes: First, we get Margie's milk although we do save enough to feed back to Maybelle and secondly, Maybelle bonds to us and becomes very personable. We have talked about calf-sharing which is when you allow the calf to stay with the mom either through the night, separate them in the morning and then milk in the evening. Or, you can keep the calf with the mom through the day and separate them at night and milk in the morning. The problem for us is that we can use ALL the milk that Margie produces. So, we milk her twice a day and bottle feed the new calf. Sunday night was the first milking for Margie and she did great! You have to remember, her udder is very swollen and tender! Normally, even the calmest family milk cow will kick and be very touchy the first few milkings after calving but, she wasn't! That always makes it better! Below you can see Maybelle's first bottle feeding. You might be able to see the milk droplets on her face and forehead! It will only take a few times and she will get the hang of it and down the whole bottle! Everyone is super excited because we can have homemade ice cream every night for supper again! And, I am excited because now, I don't have to buy milk -the budget is breathing a sigh of relief! Even the ducks are excited that Maybelle is here! The ducks were using the hog panel that we needed for the new calf pen so the ducks got a new pen with a respectable pond - but, that will have to wait for another post! How about you - do you have any calving or family milk cow stories you would like to share - I would love to hear them so, leave a comment!