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WV Department of Agriculture live-tweets calf's birth

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Once again proving there's nothing you cannot find on the Internet, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture posted live photos from a baby cow's birth on its Twitter account Wednesday afternoon.

"Our Twitter just blew up," media specialist Rudi Raynes said. "It's amazing how quick it caught on."

The department's Twitter account gained 20 followers in about 15 minutes, but the event was still making the rounds hours after the calf was born.

And why not? In February, a hospital in Houston live-tweeted a woman's caesarian section. Last year, a Seattle hospital posted live updates from a cochlear implant surgery. The National Zoo in Washington famously tweeted about a panda's artificial insemination in May.

"Tweeting the play by play of the birth of a baby calf got a follow from me," Culloden firefighter Jason Burger tweeted. "You guys know how to throw a party."

Even Secretary of State Natalie Tennant expressed her approval, writing, "This farm girl appreciates your play by play."

The tweets began about 2 p.m.

"Any minute a new calf will be on its way. This mama's water has broken so we should be seeing a new addition soon!" Raynes posted.

Tension mounted 20 minutes later when Raynes reported "Mama is down on the ground and pushing."

Over the next half hour, Twitter users watched as the hooves emerged, followed by the head.

"We have a head! But mama keeps standing up. Farmers are now moving in to help her continue birth," Raynes tweeted about 40 minutes after the original post.

The next series of photos shows an unidentified farmer grabbing hold of the calf's front legs and pulling it free from its mother, Betsy. Betsy then proceeded to clean the afterbirth from her young calf as the farmer spoke to the crowd, explaining what they had just witnessed.

The Department of Agriculture launched its new Twitter account last week.

The department had an account in the past but it was largely neglected. Raynes, who joined the agriculture department about two weeks ago, said it was decided to "start fresh" and launch a new Twitter that would link up with the department's Facebook page.

Agriculture department staff members have attended the West Virginia State Fair all week, and Raynes said the communications crew has spent its time walking around, taking photos and tweeting about the various exhibits.

In recent days the department's Twitter account has featured children with their prized show animals, a cow dress-up contest, some of the fair's food offerings, along with photos of goats, sheep and rabbits.

On Wednesday afternoon, Raynes said she found herself in one of the fair's most popular attractions: the birthing tent.

"There's actually a birthing tent here at the fair, because people bring very late pregnant cows here. They use it as an educational tool for kids to see it in person," she said.

More than 100 people gathered around to watch as Betsy began to give birth.

"We were in the front row. When it started, I said why not put the pictures out there?"

She said she originally worried photos of the birth might be too graphic for the Internet but quickly put those doubts aside.

"You know, this is not a fluff thing. Agriculture is very serious in West Virginia. Any farmer knows, this is not graphic," she said.

The Department of Agriculture wants to get young people more involved with farming, and Raynes said sharing events like the cow birth furthers that goal.

"It's been a great tool for us so far," she said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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