Last week, Bernard Muldoon saw the biggest calf he had ever seen, when a cow on the family farm delivered. And not long after that, he saw it again.
Bernard, who works on his family’s small farm about three miles outside of Ballybofey, said a veterinarian delivered the two calves that were born on the farm last week by Caesarean section.
The first weighed more than 72 kilograms and the second weighed 75 or 76 kilograms.
To put that into perspective, Bernard described it this way: “A good-sized beef calf would weigh about 60 kilos. But there are some smaller breeds, such as Limousine or Belgian Blue, that would produce healthy calves weighing 45 to 50 kilos.
“My father would have been keeping cattle all his life and he’s 70 and he’s never seen anything as big,” said Bernard, a clerical officer in a Letterkenny General Hospital labs. He said the vet had never seen a calf that size before, either.
“The heaviest calf he ever saw was 62 kilos,” Bernard said. “He asked me if I could get a weighbridge and he was surprised to see how heavy they were.”
The cows that delivered last week had been inseminated on the same day and were both due to deliver around March 10, 26 days earlier. Last week, one of the cows was experiencing difficulty.
“I knew there was something wrong,” Bernard recalled. He felt for the size of the calf’s hoof and head, “and I knew she couldn’t calve herself,” he said. “The cow couldn’t even think about calving them.”
He rang the vet, who performed the C-section. “It’s a big job, operating on a cow,” Bernard said. About an hour after one cow went into labour, the other heavily pregnant cow went into labour.
That meant that after the vet completed the surgical procedure on the first cow, the second cow was ready to calve and he had to begin the Caesarean procedure on that animal.
When the vet felt the size of the second calf he said to Bernard, “This calf is going to be bigger again.” The vet was at the farm from about 5 to 11 am last Tuesday with Bernard and the cows.
Before last week, Bernard had been required only once to call a vet to carry out a C-section on a cow. “It was crazy that it was one right after the other,” he said.
All is well a week later. “They’re doing great,” said Bernard. “Cows and calves are doing fine.”