Monday we found that we had another little calf on the farm. Seems February is a popular time to drop a calf around here.
Vicente came and told me about lunch time that there was a new calf, but no momma that appeared to be taking care of it. I told him to give it a little time, maybe the mom was recovering, grabbing some food, getting water, whatever. No sense rushing into these things if you can help it. Momma cows have been taking care of calves for a lot longer than we have.
But then Miguel got back and they went to go take a look together. There was a new momma, but she had no interest in the calf. #70 is a first time mom, and apparently had decided that this motherhood thing just wasn’t going to work in her life. The guys brought the mom and daughter up to the barn where we could put them together in a relatively small space. Maybe the mom would figure it out? The baby was immediately trying to nurse but the mom kicked her away, pretty hard actually. Then she head butted her away again. So we took mom back into the barn yard and put her in the head gate. This is the contraption we use to handle sick cows, do surgery, administer medicines if needed, etc.
We got mom inside and then locked her up. We have an access panel to the cows feet so we completely removed it to give calf level access. We also took the cows back leg and tied it up so she couldn’t kick (she tried). This gave access to mom’s area for nursing.
The little calf went right to work. It was obvious she was hungry and despite the terrible treatment from her mother she was still at it trying to get milk somewhere. The first milk that a mother cow makes is colostrum. This is the milk that passes down the antibodies and the disease resistance from mom to child. It was vitally important that we get the calf to nurse from her actual mother.
We spent about 30 minutes letting the little calf nurse all that she could. This entailed hovering over the calf because even though these pictures look calm and cute, the reality was the mom would go crazy trying to get out and away from this little parasite. I’d have to scoop the baby up to keep her from getting hurt, let mom tire herself out, then put the calf back to go back to work.
After the calf had obviously gotten some milk, we put the two back in the stall to see if mom could figure it out now that she’d done it once. She immediately kicked the calf and wanted nothing to do with her. With that result, we went and got Hedy, one of our milk cows.
Let me just say for the record. It is AWESOME having a milk cow who was just standing there watching all this going on. Hedy walked up to the barn with me, cool as a cucumber. I put her in the milking parlor, gave her a treat to snack on, and put little #91 in the right spot. She immediately started nursing while Hedy happily munched away. Once the calf had gotten all there was to get, we put everybody back where they needed to be.
Erin, our milker and milk cow wrangler, volunteered to come up and bottle feed the calf that night (Thanks Erin!!) She then put Hedy in the stall with #91 the next morning (while I slept) instead of milking her. Thanks again Erin. I forgot to set my alarm.
The calf went to town and had a big breakfast and last I looked in on her was running around and bucking and happy. All was good with the calf. Hedy wasn’t really excited about the change in schedule nor with being locked up for the day but we need a mom to take care of this little calf while she gets her strength. She’s going to need it.
This afternoon, we are turning Hedy back out with #91 at her side. At that point, her existing calf is going to take back over the nursing duties. We will have three calves, and two milk cows, all sharing the same pasture. We may have to supplement with bottle feeding as #91 gets her strength and fights for her share of milk. Miguel is going to list her for sale as a bottle calf which some people like to raise. Hopefully we can get #91 sold to a good farm where she can have a good life. I don’t need an extra cow that doesn’t have a mom.
As for #70? We have a good hamburger customer who routinely needs product. She will be taking our next slot at the processor. I’m a big mean farmer with no heart who eats his cute animals. How terrible and dead inside I must be. But you don’t kick a calf around here and get away with it. Especially a cute little defenseless new born calf. #70 is outta here.
I know we were just getting to the point where we had milk routinely in the store. I’m sorry. Things are going to be disrupted for a while until we get this sorted out. I was just about to the point of telling people you can buy all you want, restrictions are over but it looks like we will be on restriction of 1 gallon per family for a bit longer.