It is calving season round here, apparently they are coming thick and fast but until tonight I hadn't seen any for myself. Then, returning from a walk at dusk, I saw a cow with something sticking out of her bottom that looked quite a lot like a snout. Sure enough, as I got a bit closer,I could see it was a little calf face, the mouth opening and closing as the labouring mother waddled about snatching mouthfuls of grass.
I've witnessed the births of 5 humans, a dozen or so kittens and once a chicken from an egg, but never before a calf. It seemed like a long time before the mum stopped walking, eating and pushing other cows around and finally lay down (facing away from me). I missed the head coming out while I repositioned myself trying not to stress out the mum or her mates. But it didn't matter too much because after a few minutes her sides started to heave, like she was giving great sighs (though she was silent) and with a wet woosh, the calf slithered out into a soggy pile.
Next was a long period of licking, which she started at the calf's nether regions, leaving it to shake its own face free of slime. Some of the other cows came over to have a sniff at the new baby but were careful not to actually touch it. During the baby's transformation from intert slime creature to tufty-leggy-cutie there was another exciting event.
All the other cows in that little paddock and another little herd of them on the other side of the driveway suddenly thundered towards each other, bellowing across the track at the top of their lungs. I thought for a city-girl second that maybe this was some kind of birth announcement to the herd, and then... a little brown piglet came running out of the grass onto the drive heading straight for me. (Inevitably the camera failed at that moment, so you will have to believe me when I tell you it was actually multi-coloured- with a green stripe down its back and red legs- no really, I am telling the truth and no mind-altering substances were involved).
The little piglet did a u-turn when it noticed me and ran the gauntlet of distressed pregnant cows back down the driveway. All the neighbours cows on the other side of the road came over to join the commotion and after a few minutes the little pig came running back and this time carried on past me. I guess it weighed up its options and decided I was smaller and quieter so less of a threat than three herds of angry pregnant cows. It carried on up towards my place and I weighed up my options and decided I would rather stay and watch the baby calf struggle to its wobbly feet for the first time, than chase a piglet round my lawn.
Eventually the cows calmed down a bit, and reverted to being annoyed with my nosiness. They all circled round the new mother and calf who took its first wobbly steps in the wrong direction, away from its mother and towards another, particularly antsy, cow. Mum didn't like this and started trying to push the other cows away from her baby so she could carry on with her vigorous licking, as her udders leaked colostrum onto the grass.
And then the piglet reappeared, running towards me from the direction of the new calf, just on the other side of the fence from them. This time I decided to chase the piggy, and called my neighbours on the cellphone to enlist their help. We ran around in the dusk for a while but the piglet disappeared (no doubt heading into the hills to grow to a threatening size so it can rush me again and freak me out). The cows all calmed down, more or less, and the calf eventually staggered in the right direction, and managed to get its mouth wrapped around a dripping teat. All in all, another exciting evening on the farm.