New beginnings

By: John Barker

Greetings to you all keeping warm after that big polar blast. Our big news here on the ranch is the arrival of our first foal.

Falco popped out late in the evening of the 10th of May. Olina checked the horses as she arrived back from ukulele practice in Prague. It was just before 11pm. The horses were down the bottom of the meadow and as Olina was walking down she could make out something laying on the ground, as she got closer she could see the foal on the ground, still half in his birth sack. She quickly rang and told me to come down and to bring a warm jacket. It was 45 minutes before the full moon and it was a clear evening, but that meant that it was still pretty cold. 

The foal had been born no problem, but the problem was with the other horses. They were not sure what to make of this new animal and were running about a bit crazily, especially the pony and he was trying to get as close as he could. Brooke, the mum, was of course protecting the foal but in the process must have stepped on the foal's leg. Anyway, as I arrived we managed to keep the pony at bay, things settled a bit and we waited for the foal to get to his feet.

The paddock is not very flat and where Brooke gave birth was on a bit of a slope. It took Falco a while to finally get his legs out from under him and manage to stand. We slowly started moving them up the paddock to a flat area and an area that was fenced off so they could have some peace. The placenta at this stage was not doing much so we rang the vet and told him it had been over an hour and the placenta hadn't moved at all, he said he would come and remove it. So at 1am the vet rolled up and stripped down to his T-shirt (it was probably around 3 degrees at this stage). After a bit of work he managed to remove the whole placenta, it was quite stuck to the inside walls so she wouldn't have been able to pass it out herself.

After this we looked at the foal who still hadn't managed to get a drink yet. We decided to take some milk from the mum and give it directly to the foal. And so began the watching and the monitoring. We thought it would be better to lock them in the shelter where it would be a bit warmer, so I ran around in the dark making a fence, preparing everything. Falco at this stage still looked quite weak and we didn't know if he got hurt when Brooke stepped on him, so we gave him some more milk from mum and sat in the hay and watched them.

We were feeding him every two hours from the bottle, Brooke was really patient and she was completely fine with us milking her. At around 11am the next day, (we didn't get any sleep that day) we asked the vet to come and check him as he wasn't looking so flash and still wasn't drinking, the vet gave him some glucose and vitamins and other goodies and said it should help. We continued feeding him throughout the day and then the night came and we decided we needed to try and get at least some sleep, so we were feeding him each three hours over the night.

The next day which was Friday he still wasn't drinking himself and still looked weak. We were consulting with other horsey people and of course everyone had different points of view: don't feed him from the bottle he will not drink from mum; you need to let him get hungry so he will drink. Well, all we could see was that he was getting weaker if we left him to his own means. We decided he needed to actually get stronger to be able to get the energy to drink himself, so we started feeding him as much as he would drink. Over the course of the day he drank four litres and was looking much perkier.

We fed him again during the night, after about four hours. Saturday morning we came around 9am and they walked out of the shelter and he started drinking from Brooke himself. He was managing fine, so we breathed a big sigh of relief as from that moment on he hasn't looked back and is growing before our eyes and racing around the paddock.

But it was a pretty intensive few days.

On top of all this I had the Moravian Romney shearing planned for Monday the 15th. We welcomed back Karel to the gang. He came and shore with us for three days. The weather was ideal; dry, not too hot, and a bit of wind. The sheep were all in pretty good condition, some of them damned heavy of course, but we couldn't complain too much. Karel shore for three days and then Vlastik joined us for day four. He had come back from shearing in Italy early as he was having problems with his back. Later that evening he was helping to prepare the "woolshed" for the next day and the gates fell on his hand. The next morning at 7am he texted he would not be able to come, so the final day we had only three of us shearing — Lukas, Mara and myself. We managed and luckily we didn't have to shear them all as 60 were kept behind for the shearing competition on his farm in two weeks.

When we finished at 6pm we were happy. Then a few of the neighbours asked if I would shear there — one or two sheep here and there. After a break I began running around these places and at 9pm I was finished. The second last sheep had a piece of wire it its wool so as I was shearing I broke a tooth off the comb. Back to the office to get paid and then a 3.5-hour trip home. At 1.30am I arrived back, rather tired.

Otherwise May is getting hectic. I have roughly 50 farms waiting now on my list, and of course they all want them done tomorrow! The pups have moved outside. We have a nice area fenced off for them, and they are all growing nicely, this week they will already be six weeks old. They are a hard case lot. Next step is to find homes for them all.

I have plenty of stories to tell you but they can all wait. I hope the sun is shining a bit for you all and winter is still a wee way from coming.


-- John Barker is a monthly contributor to the Advocate's farming pages about rural life in the Czech Republic. A former Southlander, he previously farmed at The Key with his father Maurice but moved to Czech in 2000. He is now based there with his Czech wife Olina and their 10-year-old bilingual daughter Zofie where he teaches English, sells souvenir photo playing cards and travels the country shearing part-time.


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