Difficult Calf Birth


Most of the time our cows (the girls who have had numerous calves) do just fine when they give birth. But on rare occasions, there’s a problem that requires our assistance.

Saturday evening we checked the cows and saw one of them was in labor with one calf foot sticking out. She was walking around nervously.  Harland got her up out of the pasture and into a lot where we could keep a closer eye on her. An hour later, she was laying down pushing, but only one foot and the nose was showing. During a normal birth, the both front feet come out first followed by the calf’s nose. It should look like the calf is getting ready to dive into a swimming pool.

With only one foot showing, we knew the other calf’s leg was turned back, as shown in the image below:

There’s no way a cow can give birth when the calf is in this position. Without help, the cow would lose the calf.

So Harland got the cow into a building. He was going to have to reach inside her and bring the calf’s leg forward to the normal position.

**(If you are grossed out by birth goo, don’t watch this video)**



As strange as it may sound this was where the calm part of our evening ended, because when the cow got to her feet, just about everything that could go wrong did.

Ever wonder what a 1000 pound cow does when she’s hormonal and really really mad?

It was one of the worst experiences of my life, and not a great one for Harland either. Come back tomorrow for the full story.



Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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21 Responses

  1. Tara says:

    Oh No, I hope both you and Harland are ok! I know just how riled those momma’s get!!! Definitely more work to get that calf pulled then it was when I had to help our (sold) Nubian cross doe birth her twin kids…Both of the kids ended up with a leg tucked…

    • Suzanne says:

      Glad to hear the twin kids came out ok. That’s often a jigsaw puzzle with twins. 🙂
      Harland and I are both fine, thank you, but it was so scary and could have turned out so much worse. But I won’t give too much away. 🙂

  2. Alica says:

    Uh Oh…I was holding my breath while watching, hoping that Harland could get out of that pen! You’ve got me worried…but I’m supposing if you’re writing about it for tomorrow, that everyone must be ok now!!

  3. Pam K. says:

    Awwww, what a sweet little calf! I’ve seen people wear a shoulder length plastic glove when they put their arms up the cow. Harland is brave to stick his bare arm in there! Can’t wait for tomorrow’s installment!

  4. DeeKnitter fm KS says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have been around cattle a lot in the last few years but never have had the privilege of seeing one born. Harland stayed so calm during it all, but as you say the calmness ended. Tomorrow sounds like it will be a heck of a story. DeeKnitter

  5. Tina says:

    Oh my goodness Suzanne! I hope you all are okay. You have me worried. But I will wait because I know he is fine otherwise you wouldn’t be writing. This is a real cliff hanger! I’ll tune in tomorrow.

  6. Marilyn says:

    Suzanne ~ Oh, the excitement of living in the country. Looking forward to “the rest of the story”. We’ve had a couple of our older mommas “put us up the fence” this year too.
    Marilyn in Missouri

  7. Alyse says:

    I’ll have to come back and watch this when I’m not eating lunch! I like watching births. 🙂

  8. Doe in Mi says:

    Thanks for showing the birth. For having been brought up on a farm with cows and pigs I never saw a birth, my folks never let me in on anything like that. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

  9. Maegan says:

    I think I may just save this for any time someone tries to tell me that running a hobby farm wouldn’t be a lot of work. I know this isn’t a hobby for you guys, but it’s amazing how many people around me act like taking care of a bunch of animals (not to mention land and crops) just can’t be all that hard. I’m “city folk” and even I know that isn’t true.

    • Suzanne says:

      It’s deceptive I know because who doesn’t love animals so it looks like fun, and sometimes it is. But you’re right, it is a lot of work, and a lot of LONG hours. Harland checks the cows at 7am, then throughout the day, and checks them right before we go to bed at 10:30. Last night he found a calf that had just been born, so he fed it colostrum..this was 10:30PM. Harvest, planting, and haying all have long hours too: 7am to midnight sometimes for days on end. It’s has it’s rewards, don’t get me wrong, but farming is not an easy life.

  10. Debbie B says:

    Wow, that’s amazing. I’m a city girl but had the “experience” of seeing a calf being born when I was about 12 and never forgot it. They used the chains and pulled it out and I’ll never forget being absolutely in awe at the whole thing! Good work Harland!

  11. Linda says:

    Glad you and Harland are ok. I have heard of this kind of birth but I have never seen it before…..just totally amazing! Your Harland is a true “cowboy”!

  12. Oh my goodness!! I’ve come back and started with this story and I’ll work my way through the next 2 posts! That was amazing to watch!

  13. Alyse says:

    Finally got to watch it! Truly amazing. Harland has a gift. 🙂 I used to read James Herriot when I was younger and loved the cow birth stories.

    It’s disconcerting to think of what might have happened to the cow if Harland couldn’t help her get the calf out. She looks so helpless.

    • Suzanne says:

      Me too Alyse, I’ve read all the James Herriott books and watched the 1970s series too. I learned a lot from them and use some it it today on the farm.

  14. I was just going to say this must be the Kansas version of “All Creatures Great and Small”, but I see Alyse already did. 🙂 You guys work so hard!

    • Suzanne says:

      Yes, Harland is Jim, and I’m Helen. 🙂 Loved those books and the 1970s/1980s television series.

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