Is there an old saying that goes something like if you declare it, it will make it be true? The other side of that coin would be, of course, if you say it, and you didn't want it, that will also come true. I don't buy either but find it rather coincidental what happened on the week-end given what I had said in the last blog about what wonderful mothers cows are.
We went for a walk Sunday evening, a nice leisurely walk up the gravel road with the intent to get photos of wildflowers along the road and a little (very little) exercise. What we didn't expect to see was a brand new calf in the pasture.
Farm Boss kept counting noses as he hadn't thought any more were due right then. There was no denying it-- definitely a new one and obviously born that afternoon. Farm Boss headed for the field while I went back to the house.
My evening was planned-- read a book, watch a movie. I had changed into a nightgown by the time he returned-- reworking my plans. He wanted me to help sort the mother out of the herd. She was a first-timer who was ignoring her calf. I stuffed back on jeans and helped him set up the headgate and make a small corral.
Heading into the field, I reminded him that I help navigate cattle right until they coming running straight at me. Then if he thought I was the woman who is going to stand there, waving her arms, he had the wrong lady. I am the one who is going to be jumping aside and trying to get out of the way.
Heifers are known to be a potential problem for mothering. Large ranchers calve them apart from the older cows who have been through the mix and know what's coming. With a heifer you never really know. Sometimes they reject their calves after a difficult labor but this one didn't have that excuse as we would have seen that going on. She just wasn't ready to be a mom.
On our farm, in raising cattle for now 32 years, we have had maybe 4 or 5 heifers that didn't want to be mamas. It has been rare but came often enough that we bought that headgate. On a small farm, we obviously don't buy equipment we won't use often but this was a pretty important problem whenever it came up. Tying a cow that is already acting goofy only makes them worse.
After our joint failure to cut her out, we decided the better lure would be alfalfa hay. Farm Boss went out with the backhoe from which they are used to receiving hay. That worked and Farm Boss got her into the barn and then headgate with the work just beginning. He held the calf to the udder and tried to help it understand where the milk was. The calf was eager to try but edgy at her mother's behavior. Mama kicked to the side several times.
It didn't improve Farm Boss's mood after he got knocked to the ground by her kick to have me remind him I had said he should hobble her legs. We had both been observing her kicking, plus the nervousness of the calf which meant it had been happening to it. It's not so much that she wanted to hurt the calf (or Farm Boss), but just get them both away from her.So she is in the head gate, hobbled, the calf is nursing, but right now only with Farm Boss pressure. Sometimes this works and sometimes not. We call these mamas teen-age moms which means some are wonderful mothers right out of the gate but others want to go play in the herd and not be tied down.
The worrisome part for me is the mother is not yet making the soft lowing sounds cows make to their babies. If she simply will not take care of it, we have someone who wants it and will bottle feed it which would be sad but better than trying to keep her with a mama who is rejecting her. Depressing but it does happen.
If it happens, the cow will go to auction with the next shipment which is not our first choice. We can't explain the situation to her, but I hope, out of the goodness of her heart, she gets the idea that her baby, who is adorable, strong and eager to survive, needs a mama. She could be a good mother next time; but we have to thin this herd, and she will be the one to go instead of one who was a good mom the first time.