A subterranean rumble disturbed the quiet of the night. It persisted. Faded. Resumed.
Intrigued I stumbled out of bed and opened the bedroom window. The noise was definitely coming from the foldyard opposite.
Was it a cow calving? Perhaps struggling to give birth to her offspring. Returning back to my warm, comfy bed away from the blast of the freezing cold air from outside, I gently, then not so gently, poked John in the eye.
No I didn’t. I’m not that cruel. Normally. But it did sound as if the cow was in some distress. So as we are in the middle of calving, I thought it was best if he went and had a look.
I would make a cuppa and be on hand as a back up if necessary. I know my place.
Ten minutes later he was back giving me grief that there was nothing the matter. A few days ago he had weaned two calves that were born in late summer and they were the ones bawling he said.
OK I replied, accepting his judgement. After all he is the expert and I knew why these two calves had been removed from the yard and away from their Mums.
Both had turned into inveterate thieves. They had quickly cottoned onto the fact that the cows that had recently given birth were supplying a copious amount of milk to their newborn calves.
Not only that, but that this first milk, beestings John calls it, is very palatable.
Colustrum, beestings, first milk, bisnings, whatever, is vital for a new born calf.
As they have no natural immunity from the placenta before birth, a calf needs these first antibodies via Mum’s milk. Indeed if possible within the first few hours, even minutes it has been said.
But certainly within the first 24 hours. These two naughty calves had been nipping in and grabbing the colostrums meant for the newborn calves for themselves. They had to be moved away from temptation.
When we had a milking herd, John would leave the calves with their Mum for the first day or two to ensure they got all the immunity they could via the beestings.
Then as there were no other calves around, thieves were not a problem. With a suckler herd it can be. I went back to sleep chastened by the fact that I had woke John up to no avail. I had panicked for nothing.
But not so. This morning not only did I get a cup of tea at first light, but also an apology that I had been right to wake him.
Recently John has mucked out the foldyards. The height of straw the cows are sleeping on has reduced.
That means the gap underneath the gates between the main yard, and the heifers and bullocks yard has increased.
There is a significant space. Enough for a young calf to get under and away from their Mum. Who then goes into minor panic meltdown at three in the morning.
Making enough noise to wake up even the soundest (apart from John) sleepers.