Dawn breaks early these midsummer days, and the light comes creeping round the edges of the blinds, waking us around 4 am. On Sunday I lay dozing on and off, until the thought of an early cup of tea became too strong to resist. Peering out of the window, I noticed Celia, our heavily pregnant cow, pacing around agitatedly, tail swishing back and forth. It was time. I watched for a while, mug of tea in one hand, binoculars in the other, until I was sure.
It was time to waken the Crofter, who spent the first hour of Father's Day watching a labouring Dexter cow from the bedroom window. But there were concerns, and we headed out to the field for a closer look.
The calf's head and one foot were out - the normal presentation is nose and two front feet first. We were going to have to assist her. We called on one of our neighbours who came right away. "I knew when I heard the gate creaking what it would be" he said. Celia was distressed. She is not the friendliest of our herd, and likes to use her head as a weapon, so it was difficult. We managed to lasso her and get her into a pen and tie her head to the fence. It was obvious that the calf's head was stuck, and it was struggling. We tried to push it back in and bring the other leg out, but it became clear that we would have to pull the calf out.
We had used both our ropes in securing Celia, so in the heat of the moment, John used his belt to do the job. It was a hard pull, and took the two men straining with all their might, but then it was over.
The poor calf lay flat and lifeless - a fine looking bull calf. We worked on him, trying to rouse him and get him to breathe. John was able to feel a strong heartbeat, however, and Celia was quick to get to work on him too. Slowly he began to respond...
A few minutes later, although it seemed so long, he was up on his feet and soon suckling. I felt such relief and amazement at the fragility and resilience of this life. We trooped back up to the kitchen to clean up and for some much needed tea and toast.
He is a beautiful Dexter steer calf - full brother of Gretel, our year old heifer. There is (cough, cough) a slight dispute over the choice of a name, but we are glad to welcome him to the Croft. He is none the worse for his difficult entry to the world, and is growing stronger and more handsome all the time.