Bumping for a Calf

I’ve been so juggling so many details that my sleeping has been sketchier than ever. This increases my fogginess, which in turn increases my worry, which worsens my sleeping, around and around. I am fairly accustomed to this cycle and try hard to ride herd on my anxiety.

What I’ve found is that sometimes you just have to stop and confront the worry.

Recently I’ve been feeling anxious that maybe my cow, Katika, is not pregnant after all. I had her palpated in late November by my vet, who confirmed the pregnancy. However later my cow friends mentioned that palpating at only 70 days often causes a cow to abort. I tucked this information away and didn’t really think about it — until recently, when I was tired and sleepless, and it bloomed in my mind like an evil weed.

She is due in a month but she hasn’t even started to bag up. You dried off your cow and won’t have a calf. Duke won’t be able to breed her until fall for a calf in 2012 and by then you will have been feeding a dry cow for over a year!

This is not as paranoid as it may seem. Over the years I’ve read the experiences of many people whose cow slipped a calf in early pregnancy and they never realized the cow was now “open” (not pregnant) until the ostensible due date passed with weeks to spare.

I asked my cow friends for advice. They all suggested Bio-tracking her. This is a simple home test that you can do yourself and send off to a lab. The company will email you the result (pregnant or not pregnant) within a couple of days. It is 99% accurate, quick, and very inexpensive. Unfortunately the test requires a blood draw, either from the jugular or from the base of the tail.

Somehow, I found the idea of wrassling Katika, sticking her with a needle and drawing blood, all by myself, almost as anxiety-producing as the thought she might not be pregnant.

So my fall-back was to “bump” for the calf. Just as it sounds, this merely involves bumping Katika’s side and hoping I could feel the calf move away from my pressure or even bump me back. I have never had much luck with this exercise. I think others must have more sensitive hands. However it appeared to be my only manageable option.

Yesterday when I brought all the animals in for their grain I followed Katika into her stall. While she stood eating, I stood at her right side, pressing her abdomen firmly. (Lucy helped me doctor this photo from last month, to illustrate.)

I started by pressing behind her rib cage, high, where the top line is on the photo. It was like pressing against a beer keg. Hard and firm. There was no give at all. Katika turned her head back to look at me with mild inquiry.

“Sorry, sweetie,” I murmured, and she went back to her grain.

Next I pushed hard lower on her belly, along the bottom pink line in the photo. I felt a flutter under my palm. There! Was that a tiny kick? Or, I thought tiredly, was that the pulse in her milk vein? I shook my head. Stop it, you’re being nuts. I pushed again. Nothing. Again, again, again. Nothing. I pushed one more time and felt another flutter, almost a rippling motion, as something seemed to move away from my hand.

A calf!

Yay! Katika is definitely pregnant and due next month!

(At least, I’m pretty sure.)

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3 Responses to Bumping for a Calf

  1. Amy says:

    Cool! I’ve always understood that it’s difficult to bump after 7 months because the calf is too large to really move away. I was never able to bump Sheila, but we discovered she carried both of the calves she’s had for us in the left uterine horn, which places the calf under the rumen, out of bumping reach. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a nice, healthy Katika calf!!

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      I hadn’t heard that, Amy. However once again I tend to extrapolate from my own pregnancies, just as I do about breastfeeding to milking. I definitely could “bump” my children even after they were large and close to birth. The advantage to being the carrier is that you can feel the motion on the inside as well as the outside, but the live movement under your hand feels the same.

  2. Missy says:

    Glad to hear it feels like the same movement – I know what to feel for now. I will have to try bumping Midnight soon. Last time I tried bumped anything, I ended up bumping a rumen which felt a lot like a calf to my untrained hand! Quite embarrassing as she wasn’t pregnant after all!

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