Well, we had a calf. This was not unexpected. It was kind of a crossed finger thing. A friend was getting some straws in, offered to pasture my cows and ended up turning our heifer out with his bull. So…calf.
He was born around sunset on a cold, snowy evening. We were trying to keep the chicks in our brooder alive during a severe cold snap and, dang, if Flora didn’t go into labor. That’s all we needed. Obviously this has a happy ending but it gets worse before it gets better.
He didn’t get up. He lay in the straw, wet and cold, while mamma licked him clean. But he didn’t stand. He slowly crawled out into the snow. I grabbed him up and carried him back into the straw, covered him with my coat and hat and started rubbing his cold legs. Not much happening. Nothing else to do, we took him inside to the wood stove to try warming him up inside. Then we grabbed a halter and rope, tied up Flora and milked about a gallon our of her. Once he had something warm to drink he started looking better. By the time we had 3/4 of a gallon in him he was up and around…a bit of a nuisance. The kids named him “Freezer”, not because he got cold but because that’s where he’s headed. Freezer LaBoeuf.
He was dry, the straw was deep and fresh so we took him back to Flora for the evening. It got down to 12 degrees that night so we went to bed with fingers crossed. I’ll be danged if I put a calf in a dog crate in the back room for the night.
Morning came and he was looking good…hungry, but good. He couldn’t figure out what part of the mom was the tasty part and mom, being a heifer, wasn’t interested in being nursed, though she was spraying milk out of two teats. So, we grabbed her halter and rope and got to filling a bucket. Now, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Flora’s teats are about as big as a thimble. We milked about a half-gallon, filled a bottle to feed the calf then went back to milking. Another half gallon, another half gallon. We took turns milking with one finger and the thumb. Ugh! Lord! Let it end! She kicked, she walked around, she wapped us in the face with her tail. Pretty awesome, eh?
We kept that up all day Saturday and Sunday morning. Oh, you should have seen us out there Saturday night after church. An hour of milking an engorged but reluctant cow.
Allow me to interrupt my narrative here to remind you we’re trying to keep chicks alive in the brooder, it’s 12 degrees outside and the world is covered in snow. Great sledding, lousy for livestock husbandry.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Sunday, Julie was pooped. We lost 40 chicks in 3 nights, the calf was proving to be a lazy mooch, and the kids all had minor sledding injuries and major tiredness issues. It was time for that darned calf to help with the milking chores himself. So, the wife set to work. She milked a little. He got curious. She gave him a finger covered with milk. He stuck around…betrayed by his stomach. 20 minutes of teasing the calf with the promise of a meal and he found a thimble teat he could hold on to. You could see his whole world had changed.
Later in the morning, we went to check our little bull calf to see if he had mastered his new discovery. He was gone. Mom had decided it was better out in the pasture with the other two than to be cooped up in a stall. She pushed the gate open (it was just held with twisted baling wire, not exactly secure) and trotted off with her little man.
I was so proud. So relieved. So tired.
We’re done calving in winter.
Oh my! The joys of milking a first calf heifer! Congratulations. Don’t you just hate how they’ve bred milk cows with tiny milking machine teats??
So. Funny story. My great aunt (I think she’s 93) stopped by yesterday and noticed we have a new, shiny milking machine. “Why do you need one of those? You only have 2 cows! I milked 14.”
Well, I guess it’s because we’re not as strong as you were. Or maybe because thimbles aren’t handles.
That sounds exhausting but exhilarating. I’m so glad all’s well that end’s well with the heifer and calf. Too bad about the chicks. Ups and downs…
We expect losses the first 5 days but we’ve never seen anything like that. 7 heat lamps, box brooder, a plastic tent over the brooder and still we lost birds. The other 260 are growing faster than ever due, I think, to a miscommunication between my wife and I about how to mix the starter ration. I asked her to put in an extra scoop of fish meal, she put in an extra scoop of kelp…then I put in the fish meal. Those birds are taking off like rockets! I just need Al Gore to come through for me. Sigh.
He’s a cutie! Congrats on the healthy calf, at least!
Oh yeah. He’ll taste great. Even if he was a she I wouldn’t keep the calf in our herd because of how slow-starting it was. I believe his father is in a freezer somewhere too.
Great story. I can visualize all the effort involved by your description… and completely agree about the not calving in winter idea. Even without snow, the temps and wet and lack of pasture is just not a good environment for calving. If it can be timed better, it should be, imho.
Sweet little baby LaBoeuf. I’m glad that he and mama are doing well. Thanks for sharing about the chicks…I like to read about the failures (that sounds harsh…not meant like that) as much as the successes.
LOL. Well, we keep it real here. Lots of failures. Hope you can learn something from our mistakes. I’m not entirely sure what the mistake was this time. Maybe I shouldn’t try to start chicks in February. Maybe I should have split them among several brooders instead of putting 303 in one place. They are going strong now though.
Good thing you two are young and strong and healthy! And yep. Avoid winter calving when possible. I know many farmers that breed to have Feb. calves but I don’t like babies in winter. I like babies in spring when its warm and there’s lots of grass!