Calving season fast-approaches at Skookumchuck Farm, and our contenders, Sheila and Bridgit, appear to be in a close race to the finish!
As of today, we are 12 days from the first possible calving date based on Umberto of Hem-Loch's "service call" last summer. Cows' due dates are a fluid thing, really. Gestation calendars can predict the due date based on an average gestation of 283 days...but then there's the caveat "plus or minus 10". This means while the dates of Umberto's visit result in a calving window between April 8th and May 17th, we could see a calf as early as next week, or as late as May 27th-ish.
When our vet visited a month ago and palpitated the girls (vet-speak for feeling around via the rectum for signs of pregnancy and size of calf), he felt Sheila was a little further along, in the 7- to 7.5-month gestation range, than Bridigt. If his was an accurate measure - and palpitating is not an exact science - Sheila could calve in 2 to 4 weeks, and Bridgit in 4-5 weeks.
However, Bridgit's body has shown more visible, obvious changes toward impending birth than Sheila's. Signs we watch for include a "floppy" vulva and loosening of the pin bone ligaments, physical changes that prepare the cow's back end for the calf's journey through the birth canal. Udder changes can also occur, although when and how depends on the cow (a little rhyme!). Last year Bridgit grew an udder for months before she calved, while Sheila did so only in the week before. They may have swapped udder-growing tactics this year...Sheila's had an udder for a few months now (and it grows slowly a bit more every day), while Bridgit's has only recently started to feel any different. (Yes, I feel up my cows every day. At least once.)
Bridgit's pin bones are so loose she looks weird, and in the last couple of days even Paul commented (after nearly gagging) about how floppy her vulva has gotten (he doesn't pay as much attention to such things as I do, so was unprepared for the Jello-like jiggle of her tissues as she walked away from him!). Could she calve before Sheila this year?
Regardless, we're nearing the finish line, and getting closer to ending our long wait for new fuzzy adorable Highland babies!
Sheila and Bridgit, unimpressed with all this "race" talk. It's all very routine to them.