So on Saturday morning, again I found a calf that seemed to have no mother. This calf was wandering from cow to cow trying to steal some milk but all the mothers either kicked or butted her away. Dad and I decided to do our own investigation, and within minutes we found cow #174 that quickly became a lead suspect. This cow we knew hadn’t been recorded as having her calf yet, and she had some suspicious material hanging from her rear. That said she was being very motherly to calf #24. Oh no. Cow #24 was around as well, and was acting pretty confused as to why her calf was being claimed by another cow. Dad stayed by #174 and the #24s, while i went to get the calf that we were nearly certain by now was the daughter of #174. Once we made it together, #174 took quite a swipe at her own calf and tried to get calf #24 to run away with her. (This is beginning to sound like a daytime talk show, isn’t it–well maybe not but humor me anyway.)
After quickly convening to discuss our options, Dad and I decided that we would take calf #24 with us in the back of the pickup. I held on to it with the endgate open, so that both cow #174 and #24 could reach up to smell/claim it at will, and they followed us the mile or so back to the shed. We got those three locked in close to the shed, and then went out to fetch calf #174. We brought her and put her right away into a pen in the shed, and then coaxed calf #24 into the shed which easily brought #174 into the shed.
Then we got cow #174 quickly locked into a pen by herself and let the true #24 pair out to live happily ever after as mother-son. Now the real social work begins. We got the cow locked in a shoot so that she really has no place to go, and we tied her foot back so that she cannot kick her calf away. In no time, the hungry calf goes in for her first suck wasting no time. But of course any cow will let any calf suck her when in this type of situation. Our task is to make this cow act and actually be a mother to this calf. The calf’s smell is the primary way (I think anyway) of how a cow identifies her calf. So some veterinarians or some other researchers have worked with that and developed this powder–called “O-No-More” that messes with the cows sense of smell so that she claims the calf that has this powder on.
With the cow still locked in the shoot we sprinkled the powder onto the calf and brought the calf right in front of the cow. The cow decides she now likes the smell of the calf and starts becoming motherly towards it. Before we knew it, the cow was even making motherly noises (as you can hear in the video “Early Riser” below). This was going better than we expected.
We are now on day three of them being together in the same pen becoming acquainted, and it is looking like it will be a success story. The real test comes tomorrow when we are going to let them out of the shed and start mixing with other cows and calves. Hopefully mom will still claim daughter and forget about the crazy ideas she had three days ago.