LONG DEAN

Cotswolds, England

2022-05-13T07:00:00.0000000Z

2022-05-13T07:00:00.0000000Z

Guardian/Observer

https://theguardianweekly.pressreader.com/article/282544431894235

Diversions

It is calving season. By my estimation, having tracked her cycle from when she ran with the bull last summer, this beast is overdue. That’s not unusual, but she is a heifer – a first-time mother – so I have been monitoring closely. She had behaved normally at feeding, giving no reason to suspect change, but later on, I see her down. By habit, I inspect. She seems uncomfortable, her breath pulses shallow and quick, though she has been doing this intermittently for days. As I look, there is a sudden expulsion of fluid at my feet. She stands abruptly, just as surprised as me, and sniffs at the ground. Then she makes the tenderest of sounds, instinctively communicating with her unborn calf. There is a primitive power in this moment, but additionally so in this instance. The mother of this heifer was our original matriarch. In 2019, she was condemned with TB along with almost half our small herd. Progress is steady. She alternates between lying and standing. When she goes down, I make sure the calf is presenting correctly – two blanched hooves, pointing down; inside her I feel a nose. But steady becomes slow, she is losing momentum. At the next wave of contractions, I go to help. With her pushing and me pulling, we inch it out until the calf fully emerges, a warm, slithering mass. It is momentarily lifeless, its tongue blueish and swollen. I prop it upright and squeeze my hand over its nostrils. She licks, I rub, we both urge encouragement. Then it blinks and gives a shake of its head. It is alive – and what’s more, it’s a heifer. Opinion is mixed on the naming of livestock, but sometimes the case is clearcut. Given her provenance and her future potential, we call this new calf Faith. Sarah Laughton

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