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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Calving begins ...

It looks very much as though most, if not all, of my female herd, one cow and ten heifers (a heifer is a female that has yet to have her first calf) are pregnant. This includes young Chunky, who I had separated (too late as it turned out) from the bull, Sir Loin, in an attempt to prevent pregnancy.

Above: She seems to be eating for two, but is she pregnant and in calf?

Without testing it can be tricky to identify who is pregnant. As far as I can tell, the best sign is that their udders / teats drop down. However, the Galloways are very hairy, especially over winter and into spring, and their udders are black, matching their hair colour. This, especially for me, given my inexperience, makes spotting the signs difficult. Chunky, on the other hand, is my one non-Galloway; she is a blue grey (Galloway cow with a Whitebred Shorthorn bull) so has a lot of white hair and pink udders which makes spotting the udder / teats dropping is much easier. And they have. I am hoping she is a little way off full term still and will be big enough to deal with the birth safely.

Another sign is that they simply get bigger in the body, becoming more barrel like. They all seem pretty wide at the moment. Finally, I have not seen Sir Loin show much interest in them lately which implies none have been in heat for a while, again implying they are pregnant.

So much for the theory. Last Sunday I noticed Gussy, the matriarch and the only existing mother, standing alone in a field, unusually with none of the rest of the herd to be seen. But there was a heap of black fur on the ground, 5m away from her. I must admit, I feared the worst. I approached Gussy first and gave her a scratch, seeking permission as best I could to approach the bundle on the ground. Cows can be very protective of their young, but I know Gussy is usually friendly. It wasn’t until I was just a few feet from the calf on the ground that I saw she was breathing. Relief. I called my neighbour Robert who said she was probably just sleeping off a belly full of milk, but that he’d pop over to make sure.

Half an hour later she was standing, and then, having stretched, made her way unsteadily towards her mother’s udders. All good and soon her chin was white as a little milk dripped down. A few days later and she is able to run around a little, not letting me too close. She’s been named Peanut.

Part of the reason for having Galloways is that they are hardy and pretty much take care of themselves. They are more likely than many breeds to simply give birth to a healthy calf in the field without much fuss. On Wednesday Robert spotted another new born calf, this time in the smaller herd with Sir Loin. All good … I suspect the next month will see a fair few more. Fingers crossed for Chunky, I really did not want her to be going through giving birth just yet.

Peanut needs to build those neck muscles ... that's a big head to stop lolling around!


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1 Comment

Apr 25, 2023

😊 delighted that the herd is increasing - and you have a Robert! Glad also that so far, they are all taking it in their stride, according to the book. Congratulations - so exciting. Fizz xx

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