Wednesday, 6 November 2013

And a calf is born!

Although we have been on the farm for almost 2 years now, and have had 4 calves being born, we had not witnessed a single birth. Our farm hand Manjunath, with his unerring knowledge of such things, has always warned us a couple of days before the actual birth.  “Just a few more days to go..”  he would warn us. Godavari, the first one to calve, just a month after we moved in, gave birth to Gomati when she was out grazing in the forest nearby. Manjunath  seeing that she did not return at the usual time, went in search of her and brought her back along with the little calf.


Gomati - born in the forest adjoining our farm 


Shravani  was born when we were travelling out on work, and so was Balaram. 

Shravani and Gomati both a few weeks old

Balaram enjoying some sunshine while Phoenix and Zuki watch over him protectively
 Kalindi’s birth was the quickest, because although I was checking on Kaveri, every hour, she had shown no signs at 8 am, but by 9 she had delivered the little one and both were already up and perky. Incidentally during that time we were getting the cow shed renovated and all the cows were tethered out in the farm.
Kalindi born out in the farm where the cows were tethered during the renovation of the cow shed
The Cow shed before renovation
The spanking new cowshed inaugrated by 5 day old Kalindi


Then finally this May we were expecting Kaveri to calve any time. We took turns during the night to check on her every few hours. At around 5 am, it was V’s turn and he came back rushing to say that Kaveri seemed extremely uneasy. Both of us rushed to the cow shed.   Kaveri, although uneasy,  appeared in total control of the situation. Most of the times, these animals do not need any help with their delivery.  But still . .....niggling doubts  assailed my mind. What if it was a breech presentation? What if the hind legs appear first, what if........?  Should we call the vet right away?   If there was a need, it would take him at least an hour to get here.  But fortunately all seemed in order. Two little hooves appeared, followed by a tiny limp head.  Does the head always look so limp?  Is it alive?  The eyes were shut tight. Then a slight twitch of the tiny nostrils!   Yes it was alive.  The miracle of birth was unfolding in the quiet stable with a whole bunch of unperturbed cows silently chewing their cud.   A few more minutes and the calf was out!   Come on folks aren’t you all going to applaud?  But no,  the new member of their clan did not yet merit a second glance.  The dark brown, ungainly little creature, still damp struggled to look around.  Large eyes blinked as I shone the torch to examine it.  All seemed in order.   The mother nuzzled it and it responded by craning its neck in her direction.  She proceeded to give it a rough rub down, licking it thoroughly and it seemed to get more and more alert and perky with every passing minute. I took a gunny sack and did my bit of rubbing the little one. In a few moments, it was ready to try out its legs.  The floor was too slippery but this little one was not to be deterred.  It raised itself up and promptly slid down with its long skittle legs going in different directions. Worried that it might injure itself, we spread a thick layer of dry hay  around it. Yes, that did help and on the fourth or fifth attempt, the calf actually stood up and nuzzled close to the mother.  Now the mother and baby could be left alone. As the first rays of the morning sun began to light up the world, the little one gave a tiny barely audible bleat.  A baby born at dawn – the only name I could  think of was Bhairav –the beautiful morning raga which heralds the arrival of dawn!   And so Bhairav completed the trio of male  calves – Bheem, Balaram and Bhairav!

Kalindi has a little brother now - Bhairav

Monday, 4 November 2013

Moving a Mountain.

I pushed and heaved and pushed again with all my might.  I might as well have been trying to move a mountain, for the large grey expanse in front of me refused to budge even an inch. It was Madhubala our buffalo who had broken free and walked out onto the pathway. It seemed as if hours had passed since I had  been startled by the sudden rustling noise while I was  giving  the 4 dogs their evening meal. The noise sounded very close and I could only make out a large heavy shape in the darkness. The dogs were barking thru the small gate.
The small gate which opens onto the pathway leading to the big gate which is on the left.
 With a thudding heart, I took the torch and went to see who the intruder was.  It was a relief to see that it was just Madhubala. But there was no way that I could leave her out of the stable the whole night. So began my struggle to get her back in.

I did not want the dogs to scare and chase her so I put them all inside first. I switched on the porch light, the stable light and the newly installed light near the gate. Now I was prepared to lead her nicely into the stable. But what I was not prepared for was her utter stubbornness!  First I tried pulling on the rope which hung from her neck. But when she raised her head and lowered it with her eyes still on me, I chickened out. What if she gives me a little thwack with her huge head? With hubby out of town and no one around, I didn’t want to risk annoying her anymore. So I tried pushing her from behind. I don’t think she even registered the puny push and continued grazing on tufts of grass. Every few minutes, she would seem to move a little so I continued my efforts. But after some time i realised that we weren’t going anywhere. Probably I could tempt her with some feed. So I went into the stable, took a tub of feed and walked thru the side path.

The side path with its uneven steps, leading from the stable(the white tile-roof structure) to the main pathway

Now this side path is a narrow path leading to the main pathway which in turn leads to our big gate. I would have to entice her with the feed down this narrow lane and then into the stable. The narrow path joins the large one in a series of uneven steps and is overgrown with bushes. So when I stepped out of it right in front of her with the tub of feed, she was startled! She took off in a gallop and if wasn’t for the big gate being securely closed, she would have bolted out of sight.  She ran upto the gate and seeing it closed , tried to find a way to escape. The wall separating our neighbours compound is uneven and at a couple of places, she looked over seeming to contemplate jumping over the wall.

The big gate at the end of the pathway, with the low compound wall on the right.

Now this was too much for me to handle. So finally I called our farm-hand Manjunath  on his son’s cell phone. He had just finished his dinner and said he would come immediately.  I stood watch over Madhubala to ensure that she doesn’t escape into the darkness. The dogs having lost interest in the proceedings curled off in their respective places to sleep. Madhubala continued grazing on the little tufts of grass growing along the wall. The night owls hooted back and forth a couple of times and the stars and the fireflies twinkled merrily.  The moon gazed over the dark shadowy landscape.  The calm silence punctuated by distant hoots of the sentinels of the night and the gentle breeze, Madhubala seemed to enjoy this bit of freedom... 

The moon throws the tall  jamun tree into an imposing silhouette

Finally Manjunath came. He is a man of few words when he has his betel leaf in his mouth. A sharp clicking sound and a  loud hmmm and a gentle prod is all Madhubala needs to follow him meekly back into the stable. He ties her with a spare cord, replacing the earlier frayed one, gives her an extra bunch of hay, which awakens all the others in the cow shed, so he gives them all a little bit and walks back to his home. I switch off all the lights – porch, gate and stable and get back to the kitchen to prepare dinner and catch up on my work. The clock has moved ahead by a whole hour and I have a lot of catching up to do!      
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