Lavender is besotted with her baby.
At 11:35pm on 11th of December 2016 this little creature emerged into our world.
There were two nights of very little sleep, and then more tense hours until we got him suckling on his Mum without our assistance. He was willing, but Lavender was so enthralled with his beauty and his presence, she couldn't stop licking him.
Every time he tried to reach back under her belly towards the udder, she stepped back to lick him some more. The following day we put her halter on, then while one of us held her, the other guided the calf to the udder. After just three of these lessons, they both got the hang of it, and our problems were over.
So we thought...!!
A name was chosen by grand daughter Isla, who thought Freddie would suit. Yes, he's a real Freddie, so Freddie it is.
After two days of suckling Freddie her udder was starting to look very engorged, so while the little guy was sleeping in the grass she walked up quietly to the dairy, with some coaxing, and I took a litre (approx) of colostrom milk to ease her pressure.
She enjoyed the delicious chaff mix, with dolomite, molasses and apple cider vinegar, and some chopped comfrey leaf. After milking there's a rack full of hay for her to munch on at her leisure.
Each evening, she waddles happily up to the dairy, with some coaxing, to get her food treats and to ease the udder pressure.
(She has never gotten over whatever it was that frightened her during her last lactation. No longer does she push at the gate to come into the dairy. I always have to get behind her and lower my voice to get her to walk into the milking parlour. I thought, and hoped the spell of three months while she was dry, would help make her return to the eager girl that she used to be.)
So each evening for the next five days she was happy to leave her calf in the paddock while I brought her up to the dairy. We were ecstatic to be drinking her milk again too, and the pigs were beginning to appreciate the yoghurt mixed with their food.
On Tuesday evening as I brought her up to the dairy, everything was going smoothly, when suddenly she looked out towards her calf and took a running leap at the fence. Sadly she didn't make it over the cyclone with two wire strands. She damaged one of her teats so badly. It was the most terrible thing that I've ever witnessed in my years of farming and animal care.
We called our vet who's soothing words calmed my shock and disbelief.
It's still too difficult to talk about, and I think not appropriate to describe in detail, but the long and the short of it is... She will lose the use of that quarter, and with the help of antibiotics it is highly likely she will recover.
Now we are finding small reasons to be grateful every day, for each small improvement, and the fact that she is still able to feed Freddie.
I am super relieved every day when I bring her into the dairy to treat what remains of her very painful teat and spray it with an antiseptic antibacterial with a fly repellent to keep the pesky flies away. She lets me put the milking cups on the other three teats!
We are "high five" happy with relief each time we get her in to give her another painful jab of anti-biotics. One would think that, after a couple of jabs while standing in the dairy, she would not want to come in any more.
So at present Lavender is our biggest concern, and the cause of the most joy each day as we reach another recovery milestone. Every waking moment is focused on Lavender.
In hindsight, what could we have done to prevent this kind of accident from happening?
The answer is probably nothing, but in future, if one of our heifers is a jumper, I will not keep her as a future milker.
Our fences are strong and have two strands of white sight wire.
She was following the same routine that she has done for more than two years.
She has always been content to leave her calf sleeping while she walked up to the dairy, however, since then I've been trying to round up the calf so he follows her, but that is creating more problems so I've left him behind the last two times.
Our main concern is to keep her trust in us, especially in me, and to know how hard to push her without upsetting her. Oh my goodness, it's a fine line and I back off just as soon as I feel her tension rise, but she has to know her boundaries as well. A totally spoilt cow, (dog, horse, child) will be of no use to anyone. She still loves me, I know that, and I think she knows that I have her best welfare foremost in my mind. Aren't animals just the most amazing and giving creatures?
Meanwhile, we've placed some temporary higher fencing along the path to the dairy, and will as soon as possible, build post and rail high fences in that area.
Other farm life is going on around us, days are busy and full, but oh, how grateful I am to have our beautiful Lavender.