New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

Friday, February 05, 2010

As the Barn Turns

Although I can't complain, given how much snow some parts of the country are getting, here on the farm, this is the season for mud and then some. It turned out also to be the season to bottle feed a calf, something we always try to avoid, but this time there was no choice.

When we returned home from Sunriver at the beginning of January, one of the first things we saw was a newborn bull calf with no mother nearby. Looking through the herd for a reluctant mama, Farm Boss couldn't see any of the usual tell-tale signs.

One cow though showed interest in the newborn, made that mothering sound. He felt that had to be mama, but she wasn't letting the calf suckle. We were irked because this particular cow had rejected her first calf. We were also a little surprised as she had been a good mother ever since that first abandonment.

Nevertheless, he got her into the pen with the calf. She jumped a four foot fence to get back out. After a couple of her escapes, we were tempted to use a gun on her, but we resisted. The battle of getting her in where the calf was, having her get out, and then watching her call to the baby went on as we supplemented the calf with milk replacer.

One morning Farm Boss came back from the barns and said that cow deserved the mother of the year award. It turned out she had a calf all right, but one born while we were in Arizona probably and not noticed given our hectic schedule. She was trying to mother the new one too, get back to her own, and deal with humans who didn't understand what was going on. She did not have enough milk to feed two calves.

We resigned ourselves (after failing to find someone who would buy it) to bottle feeding until the little bull (soon to be a steer) could go on solid food. I really hate doing it as it gets you attached to an animal that is meant for food at the best and might die prematurely at the worst. (The fear it might die is why I had not written about it here earlier). We are not naming him and he is staying in with the cows where he sometimes plays with the other young calves-- especially super mom's.

We did get a plus from it when two of our grandsons came out with their folks to get closer to a calf than is usually possible and find out what it's like to feed one.

Right now there isn't much to say about farm work other than means working around a lot of mud. Spring can't be too far off, can it? The orphan stays in the barn, looks out, but isn't interested in navigating that treacherous sea of muck. I asked Farm Boss to take a photo of me in the mud just north of the barn to to show how much there is. This is not the deepest section.

I could have gone out further but wasn't interested in getting stuck.. or worse ending up sitting in it which would have made an interesting photo but not much fun. Incidentally, I am a huge fan of Muck boots. I remember many years trying to walk through mud with inferior boots. In mud, there is no substitute for Muck boots (yes, it is a brand name).

14 comments:

robin andrea said...

I like this calf story, rain, but most especially that very sweet mama who tried to mother both calves. What a great mom.

I haven't heard of Muck Boots before, but I suspect there's going to be a pair in my future. It's definitely wet enough here in the foothills for such things.

Paul said...

Great story and pics and such a beautiful Lady !! :-)

Annie said...

Love it when you talk dirty ;-)

Anonymous said...

Awww, Rain, I couldn't help but commiserate with the cow, even before you let us know that she already had a calf that she was nursing and nurturing. I really, really, really have a strong gut reaction against forcing anyone to mother against her will - even a cow. Too bad we can't ask permission from our cows before turning the bulls loose with them (or the syringe!) There might be a lot less beef produced - lol!

Cop Car

Rain said...

If you have been around cows in heat, copcar, you know that it's more biology that demands something be done than logic. On our farm, the bull is always with the cows as part of the herd; so whatever happens, happens naturally. Whenever this mama would get back out in the herd, she'd go straight to him for comforting. A natural herd is a neat thing to watch but not near so tidy as the way most ranches operate. With the sheep, when the ewes are not in season, the rams prefer each other's company; but the bull likes his ladies in season or not.

and funny, Annie :)

Kay Dennison said...

I'm glad the calf story had a happy ending. You had told me about it.

I like the idea of a natural herd.

We're in blizzard mode and will be getting about a foot of snow. Yikes!!!

Darlene said...

What a great Mom. I always loved the way the cows left a baby sitter with the calves when they all trooped down to the watering hole. They are so like human moms in many ways.

mandt said...

Rain, this story reminds me of that weeping camel documentary on PBS a few years ago.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh, I can see how it would be very hard to NOT get involved with this sweet little calf....
That is so interesting that the mother had two calves so close together...If I understood you correctly...And trying to feed both---Lordy!
Those Muck Boots look GREAT! Farm life is hard, isn't it Rain? So much to contend with...Mud, Rain, and who knows what else...

Mary Lou said...

Oh! I get it! She had TWINS? And here I was thinking that his moma had wandered off and no one knew where she was! I thought you were putting the wrong mama in the barn with the calf. DUH!

Joy Des Jardins said...

What a sweet story Rain...and a great Mom.

Rain said...

Not twins, Mary Lou. If this bull calf had been smaller, we might've considered that possibility but he was way too big. The usual way you figure out who the mama is, if she isn't cooperating, is discharge from the rear, full udder and making mama sounds. Because we weren't there for the birth, we couldn't see any discharges... and the one we thought was the mama had the udder and made the sounds but because she was in mothering mode for her own. She was just trying to take care of that orphan. It was not hers though. And we will never know who did have it. It was another of those barn mysteries that ranchers dislike.

Alan G said...

Rain...

Speaking of cows and movies, I watched a really good movie last night on HBO titled "Temple Grandin", a true story about an autistic girl that grew up to become a world renown expert and advocate for the humane treatment of animals in the cattle industry. It was excellent and very informative.

You must see it if you have not! Claire Danes plays the title role and did a superb job in my opinion.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I do not envy you tromping in the mud--maybe when I was younger. How I used to love playing in the rain as a kid. Not so now.

Bottle feeding a calf has to be a whole lot of work. I've done it with puppies once and that was hard work. I had to take it to work with me in a box.