During April two new calves were born in the Red Poll Herd. The first, who finally arrived on April 11th was born to Pettistree Leila. Dick was getting really worried about Leila. She was very fat, largely because she was the boss cow, and always made sure that she got the biggest share of the rations. She was also two weeks overdue. These two factors could make the calving very difficult, but there was a third problem. The calf had an Australian father, who gloried in the name of Eurimbla Gladstone, and his calves were generally seriously big. So much so that when Leila was 14 days overdue, Dick decided that enough was enough and gave her an injection to induce her. This usually worked within 36 hours, and we expected things to have happened by 8p.m. Sunday 10th April. Nothing happened. Dick checked her at 11p.m. and then went to bed worrying about just who he could call upon for help if she should go into labour at three in the morning.
I woke up at 6 o'clock the next day and went straight out to the cow-shed, expecting to see Leila in a lot of discomfort, with the possibility of her calf being stuck and unable to make its entrance into the world. But how wrong I was! There lay a beautiful bundle of damp, chestnut-coloured calf - outside the pen. Somehow she must have slithered under the gate, taken her first tottery steps, and collapsed in a little coiled heap beside the cattle trailer.
I raced back indoors and upstairs to Dick, shouting, 'It's out, it's out! No, I don't mean it's out, I mean it's really out! It's out of the pen!'. Dick also couldn't believe what he saw. The calf was of normal size. There were no signs at all of a stressful birth. Leila was just calling gently to her calf. All that remained was to re-unite mother and a rather frightened baby, and watch quietly whilst the little heifer latched on to the enormous udder and took its first feed.
Two days later, Dick came in from his early morning inspection of the herd, and announced that Pettistree Suza had safely produced her very first calf in the corner of the meadow near the churchyard. Suza had also been a few days overdue, but we didn't really know what to expect from her calf. The sire was an old bull from the Artificial Insemination stock dated 1970. His name was Gedding Badger, and he belonged to a very good herd owned by Mrs. Walmesly of Gedding, near Bury St. Edmunds. He was also reputed to be a large bull, but it was the first time that we had used this particular semen. However, she had obviously calved without any trouble, and after verifying that it was another heifer calf, and fixing an ear tag in each ear, Dick left mother and baby to get to know each other. What we didn't know at the time was that we had another escapologist on our hands. When I took the dogs out for their afternoon walk, there, in the front garden, was once again a beautiful bundle of coiled up Red Poll!
I immediately assumed it must be Leila's calf, as the cow shed where they lived was nearer to the garden. But no, they were lying peacefully together, safely inside their pen, and it was Suza who was standing alone in the meadow mooing rather fretfully. How had the little calf got from the far corner of the meadow, through the fence, and into the garden? There were no signs of any breakout, or any damage to the fence. We still don't know. All we could do this time was plop the little heifer into the wheel-barrow and wheel it back to its forlorn mother.
Both of the young calves are now doing very well, and, as far as we know, have not made any more escapes. They play together in the field behind the church, and at evening time particularly can be seen racing up and down the midden at full speed.
The next cow due to calve is Pettistree Sheila, one of Leila's daughters. She is named partly after her Australian grandfather - Youngerellen Power Mover, and partly after our next-door neighbour, who has been called upon quite a few times to help with the calvings. She is due in late July. In late August, it's the turn of Pettistree Miss Santa, born on Christmas Day 2002.
It's a relief that none of them are due in June. We wouldn't want to cope with a calving on Katharine's wedding day!