On my morning check of the cattle, I noticed a newborn calf with no mother around. Odd, but not unprecedented. Every once in a while they might slip away for a moment to get a drink or grab a bite to eat after the strenuous task of calving, but they don’t leave their newborns for long. There were a few other cows around, so I thought I’d try to identify the mother by doing my best imitation of a slightly distressed newborn calf beller: Beaehaaaaah. But despite my best attempts (I may have sounded more like a lamb, but still), no cows even looked up at me. So went back and reported my findings to my father. He thought we could wait until the noon check to see if a mother has shown up by then.
So we did, and when I checked at noon, the calf lay in the same spot, but still no mother to be seen. I tried making distressed calf noises again (it has worked before so don’t think I’m completely incapable), but still no mother came running to aid. Went back and reported to dad my findings again, and pretty much the conclusion that we arrived at was that one of two other newborns that had been born overnight must have been a twin, and the mother only accepted one (is sometimes common in twins). So, shortly thereafter, we went out with our ’89 chevy pickup to rescue this orphan.
We brought it to our barn and got a pen set up for him. During this time, mom (my mother, not the calf’s) started to thaw out some colostrum that we had stored in our deep freezer since 2008. What is colostrum you might ask? Colostrum is sometimes called first milk. It is quite different than the usual milk, in that it contains much more fat as well as some extra antibodies and/or nutrients that are good and somewhat essential for newborns to be welcomed into the world with. The consistency and color reminds me of melted ice cream. So we put three cups of this super milk into a bottle, and brought it along to the barn.
The calf was cooperative, but still was pretty confused at what to do with this bottle we were shoving in his face. I stuck my finger in his mouth and instinct kicked in and he started sucking. I did my best to remove my finger at the same time and replace it with the bottle. He let it fall out a couple of times, but by about the third time, he didn’t and quickly latched on. He sucked probably about half the bottle, and then he let it fall out. It didn’t take long to get him latched on again, and before we knew it he had finished the bottle. You know, throughout that experience (towards the end), a certain satisfaction of accomplishment that doesn’t come too often–even if i successfully accomplish other tasks– kind of swept over me.
That said, this little guy, now has added another bullet to the daily chore routine (bottle feed three times a day) that is already full enough. Anyone want an orphan to bottle feed?