Surprise calf arrived over the weekend

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7 months 2 weeks ago #559028 by Hertz Donut
A bit of a warning/reminder to all...

Everything we'd heard and read suggested precocious maturity in heifers could, on rare occasions, be as early as 6 months, so we separated the bull from the herd at 5 months just to be sure, and well before the heifers were showing any signs of cycling. Then our youngest heifer gave birth over the weekend, at the tender age of 14 months and 2 days. We'd noticed a small change in her udder over the past couple of weeks but thought maybe it was fatty deposits due to maturing. She was big, but didn't "look pregnant."

Fortunately she's fit and strong, and managed a good, full-term delivery and perfect clean-out with no assistance. At first we thought she'd miscarried due to the size of the afterbirth, and no presence of a calf in the yard or adjoining paddock. But then we found a surprise.

The calf was born overnight in the yard but was nudged under the bottom rail and into a drainage ditch, so I didn't find her until I came back from opening the main farm gate and saw her lying sternum-down (thankfully), exhausted, beside the gate to the yard. I'd managed to walk right past her on the way out to the farm entrance. She had managed to crawl out of the ditch by herself, likely before first feed, before running out of energy by the gate.

I eventually managed to get her onto the mother for her first feed, and they have spent the past couple of days in a sheltered area of the stockyard, getting to know each other. The mother has been very good with feeding, although she's not producing a lot of milk. The calf looked quite weak yesterday, and we spent quite some time trying various methods to get milk into her, including taking some from her "grandmother", and even seeing if she would latch to her grandmother, who is still producing, but in the end the solution was to put all 3 generations together. The mother calmed down, as did the grandmother (who had been constantly calling to the mother), and as of this morning everyone seems much happier. The calf is a bit low on energy but is starting to take small runs and jumps, so signs are promising. It helps we've had warmer nights and yesterday was over 20 degrees.

We called in a vet to check on the mother and there are no tears or other issues. We have been very, very fortunate with this one, as any number of issues can arise from such an early pregnancy.

Don't ask me, it was on its side when I got here.

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7 months 2 weeks ago #559030 by Jaybee
We've had it happen a few times over the years. Twice we didn't notice the action so didn't have them injected, both heifers calved OK but the calves were small and stillborn, maybe premature. It's also really hard to tell they're going to calve, they don't spring like a dairy heifer, that may also be because the calves were prem.

It seems like dairy beef calves are more prone to early cycling than straight beef, and they're usually fat little calves that are doing very well. My observation is that once they reach around 150kg liveweight you're at risk. It's difficult because you want to run the mothers with the bull long enough to get the cows in calf without risking getting the calves in calf too.

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7 months 2 weeks ago #559039 by Ruth
Lucky! The earliest cycling I've seen here has been four months and fortunately I spotted what was going on and fished the calf and mother out of the paddock where the bull was definitely looking interested! I've only had two or three like that in 25 years and fortunately no "accidents" resulted.

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7 months 2 weeks ago #559041 by Amandabodu
We had a cow who a couple of years ago lost a calf. We put her in with her herd mates and there was a young bull in there also. he was only there for another three weeks and we saw no sign of the cow cycling. We also assumed she wouldn't have got back into calf so soon after losing one. Nine months later and a surprise calf was born! She had been looking a bit fatter than usual but didn't have a calf belly. Mother and baby were both fine and the baby is now nearly two years old!

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