In the last barn on the left, all the way at the end of Maple Avenue, what some would call a miracle had just taken place Wednesday at the Montgomery County Fair. And another was about to follow.
Chloe, a 6-year-old Jersey cow from Clarksburg, had just given birth to a healthy male calf just before 6 p.m..
“I thought it was amazing,” Emily Emmons, 9, of Poolesville gushed.
“It is fabulous, the best part of the fair,” Patty Hargis of Gaithersburg said.
As Chloe gently cleaned her calf, later to be named Ribeye, the crowd lingered, camera-ready for the moment when the newborn would make his wobbly first stand.
It took many attempts, but bracing on his knees, Ribeye managed to precariously raise his minutes-old body up onto all four hooves, eliciting a cheer from the gathered crowd.
While he stood for only mere seconds before falling into the soft bed of straw, it was enough.
The fifth calf of the year was just born and had just stood at the Montgomery County Fair.
For the past five years, Bruce Connelly of Trouble Enough Indeed Farm in Clarksburg has bred about a dozen of his cows annually so their calfs would be born before an audience at the fair.
“We do it to educate the public,” Beth Smith, co-superintendent of Old McDonald’s Barn and the Birthing Center, said. Beth Smith runs the barn and birthing center with her husband Tom. “We're sitting here in the middle of the city and most people don't get to see something like this.”
Most Montgomery County fairgoers would never otherwise experience the birth of an animal, said Connelly, who raises cows that will be sold to other farmers.
Nor would they fully grasp what a farmer goes through as part of the birth without watching it for themselves, he added.
Cows are not that different from humans when it comes to birth, said Beth Smith, who has seen probably 20 cows born at the fair.
A cow's pregnancy lasts about 9 months, the mother experiences contractions, and labor can be quick or it can be drawn out.
And just like humans there can be complications.
A calf born late Thursday at the fair required veterinary assistance during delivery. Dr. Patrick Skipton of Woodfield Veterinary Clinic in Damascus was called to assist with a calf that was positioned on its side, rather than the optimal position of belly down with front hooves first in its mother's birth canal.
For Chloe, delivery was quick, Tom Smith, co-superintendent of Old McDonald’s Barn said. So quick that Beth Smith, who was on her way to the fair for the evening, missed the birth.
From the time she started showing to when he started coming out it was about 15 to 20 minutes, he said. Usually it takes the calf longer, between 30 and 45 minutes.
Often the farmer will assist the cow during delivery by pulling on the calf, similar to a doctor using forceps, he said.
While Beth Smith said a heifer, a first-time mother, can appear anxious, Connelly said an audience in her big moment doesn’t phase a cow like Chloe, who has given birth at the fair before.
But to ensure all the pregnant cows gave birth this week, Connelly induced each, aiming for one birth every day of the fair.
Seven cows gave birth at the fair, with the final birth, a female calf, born at 12:24 a.m. Saturday. The calf, named Cupcake, took her first steps just before 1 a.m. according to Beth Smith.