deadbeat mama?

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.

thawing the colostrum

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?


ding dong ditch

This pheasant comes up to our basement windows in my mom’s sewing room, and just pecks on the window. Not sure what he’s looking for, maybe he sees his own reflection and is trying to trying to eliminate what looks like his competition. Mom says he’s been doing it off and on over the past couple of months. But we appreciate his company  and can get a pretty nice closeup view of him, until he sees us and then runs away cackling. Kindof like that youthful game/activity of knocking on someone’s door and then running away before they answer.

It is true, I’ve only seen two people (my parents) today, so interactions with other living creatures sometimes take on a new significance.

The first meal

“Has the calf sucked yet?” is one of the most often asked questions I get from my father when I report that I’ve discovered a newborn.

calf #186 looks for his first meal

Here, the question refers to one of the newborn calf’s most critical and primary tasks after the umbilical cord is severed–nursing his mother (I found out that the proper term for suck is suckled but to me that sounds even worse). As soon as the calf is able to stabilize himself on his four feet, instinct tells him to go on a search for something hanging down that squeezes. With nice weather, a healthy calf, and a cooperative and properly-endowed cow, no human assistance is necessary to aid the calf in this task. When one or more of the four qualifications I just mentioned is not met, human assistance may be required. I will cover those instances in posts to follow.

some numbers from this past week

4: The number of unique people (my parents, the fedex lady who dropped off some boxes from work, and a neighbor who stopped to get some hay) I saw from Monday afternoon through Friday afternoon.
136: The approximate number of unique cows I have seen from Monday afternoon through Friday afternoon.
14: The number of boxes (out of 15) the USPS successfully delivered of my stuff that I sent as I moved from DC.
1: box that started with my books and DVDs from Washington DC, which arrived here with a busted out bottom, and some plastic straps holding it together, filled with kids clothes (not mine) and none of my books or DVDs.
50: The approximate speed in mph of the wind on my face as a drove our four-wheeler probably about 20 mph directly into 30 mph wind, which if i faced directly into it, my eyelids would blow shut and the only way i could open them was to turn my head to either side.
3: The number of people (my bro, his friend and myself) who worked to deliver a 100 pound calf with my father coaching us (with his bad back) and my mother cheering us on.
0: the number of meals I’ve eaten out.
2: the number of times I’ve shaved.
10: (at least) the number of times i’ve peed outside.
okay. i’ll stop now.