Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sunbake and Friend

Ten days after our arrival at Shumhurst, the kids burst into our little house with some exciting news: one of the cows was in the birthing pen, and if they were very quiet and brought their mom, they could watch the calf be born.
Although I grew up in the middle of farm country, I had never seen a calf's birth, so we all jumped at the chance to witness the miracle of birth.  I've never seen my rambunctious kiddos sit so still and so quiet for so long.
Mark told us he had to leave for about thirty minutes, but he thought it would be soon.
Mama was up walking around and lowing quietly when we got there, but soon she was down on her side, and we could see the calf begin to emerge.
It was hard to determine who was more excited--me or the kids. We sat there, spellbound, for the entire thirty minutes Mark was gone, but nothing really seemed to be progressing.  With each contraction, the calf's feet would move a little farther out, then retract back inside.
Mark returned, fully expecting to see a calf.  Instead, he quickly realized that the calf was breach.  Acting swiftly and expertly, he tied baling twine around the calf's protruding hind legs, then attached the twine to a chain and cinch.  In minutes, Baby was born.

I will never forget the excitement on my city kids' faces as they saw that brand-new calf lying in the straw.
Mark manages about sixty-head of milk cows alone, and one way that he keeps track of the breeding lines of his Holsteins is through their naming process. Male calves aren't ever named, but they are sold as soon as they are mature enough.  Girl calves are kept and named and their behaviors, milkings, and calvings are carefully charted.  Baby's mama was named Sun God--through the original Sun line, so Baby needed a name, of less than seven letters (to fit in the registration space on the certificate) with Sun as part of it.
We were a little excited about the prospect of naming a new calf, so we would go back to the house and think of every name we could think of.  This line has been at Shumhurst for a while, so many of the names we suggested had already been used.
Two days later, we approached Mark with a name we thought was perfect.  This last summer was one of our country's driest ever, with it only raining on us in Pennsylvania one day in almost three weeks.  In honor of the hottest, driest summer, and visitors from parched Arizona, we suggested Sunbake.  And that is her name.

We visited our calf every single day.

Then, when we returned from an overnight trip to upstate New York, Sunbake had a new friend in the baby pens:
Isn't she beautiful? 
Right from the start, she loved the kids--loved having them pet her, and especially loved sucking on their hands.
July isn't the normal season for calving, but we felt so lucky to be there to witness new life join the farm.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful experience! I'd love to have been there.