Double trouble in store as Mum provides twin calves

Mrs Downs Diary
Mrs Downs Diary

For the first time in a few years we have twin calves. They did present a mystery to John at first as they were born between his late night check on the herd before midnight and the early morning clock-in at six.

Initially John thought that two cows had calved.

But with only one proud, possessive and ever so slightly aggressive Mum in the picture, he realised double trouble was stored up just for her.

It is not that we haven’t had twins before, just that we have not been very successful in keeping them both with their mother.

Usually one has to be taken away and hand reared. Or as happened a few years ago when another cow had recently lost her own calf, fostering one of them onto a new Mum.

His presumption was fuelled by the fact that one of the calves is red and the other one black. Both are heifers.

As our Limousin bull is red and Mum is a black Aberdeen Angus cross, these are clearly not identical twins. Both are a good size too, another reason John thought they were not twins, added to the fact that the cow had not looked overly big for her dates.

But in the crowded foldyard, with known milk thieves of differing ages ( although the main criminals have been moved to a different yard) John wanted to make sure that this little family could be reared without being mugged. As the big barn opposite the farmhouse is gradually being emptied of straw and hay bales, there was room for a cosy, secure home for the trio.

Using the big gates, whose purchase a few years ago must have been one of the best buys ever on the farm, he has constructed their new domicile. It has meant eviction for my broody hen and her run, but I have rehoused her, plus eggs, in a quiet corner of another big shed. You just need a good memory to remember where everything is.

As the cow and calves home is opposite the young bulls yard, there is a lot of interest in these newcomers. Not only the bulls. The dogs, who are never allowed to get close to the cattle in the yard for fear of them being trampled, are fascinated. It has led to a few standoffs. Fizz yelping and barking at one side if the gates. The cow, head down, threatening from the other.

As an old shepherd’s ( I refer to John of course ) trick is to tie a dog up close to a ewe who is not interested in fostering a lamb to ignite the mothering instinct, this is in fact reinforcing the cow’s maternal drive.

John was concerned that when the cow and calves were in the main foldyard, she might lose interest in one calf, or literally misplace one of them in the crowd. With all her focus now on protecting and feeding these two babies, he doubts this will happen. Fingers, or in the cows case, hooves, crossed.