I am too old to be raising cattle. Or rather to be helping Hubby raise cattle. We started out with four pregnant cows and have grown to twelve pregnant cows and one heifer that will have a calf next year. Hubby’s original plan was to only have 8-10 cow-calf pairs on the place. Now this year we will have twelve cow-calf pairs. We have had a pretty good crop of calves over the last five years. All the cows have been good mother’s and raised nice babies. One of our original four cows came with the name Glenda and we knew she had a bigger udder than usual.
We also knew that she could have trouble nursing a calf at some point with that udder. We bought her knowing we would butcher her if it came to that point. Her second calf was our first bottle calf. We called her Greta. We were not aware that she wasn’t getting any milk for about two or three days. Glenda hid her out in the grass and we couldn’t always find her. Hubby happened to catch her trying to get milk but couldn’t. It wasn’t for lack of trying. She knew what to do, but always hit too high. Trying to get her to take a bottle for the first time was a real experience. Especially with Glenda breathing down our necks and wanting to turn us into dust. We had a neighbor that raised dairy cattle help us the first time. That is me in the picture. After awhile Greta would come running when she saw us coming at feeding time. Didn’t matter if Mom was calling her to come back. And Glenda finally figured out that Greta would come back to her when she was done eating.
We (actually hubby) didn’t get Glenda culled out soon enough and she got rebred and had a third calf that couldn’t nurse either. That poor thing nearly died before we could get something into him. But he survived and when he was weaned Glenda went off to become hamburger.
Fast forward to May 17, Sunday. It had stormed pretty hard during Saturday night until about 2 or 3 in the morning. Sometime after the storm our cow Oprah, (she came with that name) had her calf. Another bull calf. Oprah has had a bull calf every year since we bought her in 2010. She was one of the original four we first bought. She was the previous owner’s daughter’s 4H cow. She had a blind eye and she was still only about five years old when we bought her. The man wanted her to go to a good home and knew we would take care of her. And we have. Oprah has been a really good Mom and raises a good healthy calf. Again this year she had a nice strong calf. She never has had trouble nursing her babies. On Tuesday morning, bright and early (I am rarely up before 8am) Hubby comes in and gets me up and says “I think its Glenda all over again.” I am like What? Six-thirty, I am still groggy. He didn’t think that the calf was nursing. I am not sure why he has come to this conclusion so, he starts fixing a bottle of supplement for the calf and needs me to help try and catch said calf and try to get him to drink from the bottle.
Oprah will sometimes hide her calf in the grass, but she is not as stealthy as Glenda was. It is usually not too hard to find. We found them just fine and when Oprah seen us coming she ran to her calf and when we first approached it was still lying down. So far so good. Until we try and reach for it and it jumps up and runs away with Mom on his trail. Now I am thinking this is not a weak calf from not getting his milk. And I said as much. But we followed until they stop again.
Oprah leads the calf into our small hay field and Hubby tries to get baby to take the bottle. Kind of cute to watch.
Baby really doesn’t act too interested so we finally leave him alone and we are both kind of wondering if he may be nursing after all. Mom’s udder is a little bigger than last year, but nothing like poor Glenda’s. Hubby checks on them several times throughout the day. Finally his last check, which is about 7:30pm or after, he comes in and says he is not nursing. I get Son to come out and help set up some of my horse panels in the weaning pen so Hubby and I can try and lure Oprah and her calf into the pen, then the calf into the smaller pen to try and feed him. Now it is drizzling rain and will be dark soon. And it is windy and cold. Why did Hubby wait so long? I am already tired and ready to chill after supper. So out we go, both of us on the ATV with a bucket of grain. Oprah loves her grain. We find her about a half mile from the weaning pen. Okay no problem. We get some grain out for her and she eyes it a little, looks at me on the ATV and thinks it is okay. Sort of. She goes for the grain and Hubby lets her have a bite or two then picks up the pan and starts toward the gate of the pasture. Mom and baby move along and I stay behind a little to follow. This makes Mom suspicious. She stops, looks back at me, calls the calf and looks at the pan of grain again. Another bite and Hubby moves on. Oprah turns back. I try to cut her off and keep her moving to the gate. Nothing doing. A turn, a cut and back the way they came. Okay this would have been a good time to have a good cutting horse. It would have moved more smoothly and quickly than an ATV. But I don’t have a good trained cutting horse, and I would fall off the first spin.
Now I am getting grumpy. The other cows have figured out we have grain and Oprah has moved into the trees. She keeps moving away from the other cows, then stops to look at us. I leave the ATV and take the pan to the trees. Oprah exits on the other side and stops again. I walk over and put the pan down. She eats and Hubby has moved the ATV, gets off and slowly moves around behind Oprah on her blind side, which happens to be where calf now is standing wondering what Mom is eating. Hubby walks up reaches down to the calf, calf realizes he’s there, but too late. Hubby scoops him up and heads towards the ATV and I follow quickly. Mom comes bawling and at a fast clip. Hubby tells me to get on the ATV and take the calf and drive! I do as I am told and all hell breaks loose. I am worried about Hubby getting trampled by about half the other cows who have come charging along to help protect Oprah’s baby. He yells keep going.
Do you know how hard it is to try and drive an ATV with a 40-50 pound calf on your lap and bawling for Mom and trying to get down? This is the second time I have had to do it. And it is NOT easy. The speed control is on the handle bar and controlled by your thumb. Baby is trying to stand on my lap and nearly gets loose two or three times. I have to let go of the speed lever several times to readjust the calf. I cannot get turned around to see behind me and make sure Hubby is still standing. And while all this is going on Mom and about six cows are circling the ATV and bumping it trying to get me to stop. Once while I kind of got stuck on a twist in the trail, I had to let go of the speed control and adjust again and a hand reaches out to help keep the ATV moving. Hubby is alive! That was the longest, nerve wracking half mile in my life.
We finally get to the weaning pen and Son is standing at the gate and I am yelling at him not to let all of the cows in. Too late. About three or four other cows have gone in, but thankfully Oprah is amongst them and I pull in with the calf. Oprah comes over bawling, giving me the evil eye and sniffing her calf to make sure he is fine. I am fine thank you. I have a bruise on my leg from a hoof and a sore arm. And we aren’t done yet. I go in to make up another bottle while Oprah and the calf settle down some. They have gone as far away from the pen Son set up as they can get. We try to get a hold of the calf again, but he is really leery now and Oprah keeps putting herself between us. As I said, Oprah was a 4H cow and so she has been broke to halter. I in my infinite wisdom think okay I will get the halter we bought when we found this out, and haven’t the faintest idea how to put it on. It is a little different than a horse halter, but not by much. I get and after a few attempts to try and get it on, I am really disgusted and shout at Oprah to whoa! A term horses learn. Apparently it doesn’t work on cows. I am trying to think what you would teach a cow to stop and stay while in the ring. I shout STOP! And she stops! WOO HOO! It worked! Until I tried again to get the halter on. Oprah STOP. She stops and I finally get the halter on after getting shoved around a bit. Baby is tired now so we try to get him to take the bottle. Nothing doing. For a calf who may or may not be getting milk and nourishment, he is incredibly strong. We think that maybe if we try to get them into the shed, and hold Oprah, we can maybe get him on a teat and see if he will figure it out. Like Greta, he aims high. I lead Oprah to the shed. Get them inside and try to get baby on a teat. But he is on the blind side and Oprah is shoving me aside trying to see him. I move her around and we get baby on her good side and then Oprah decides she’s had enough of the halter and shoves me to the wall, hits my sore knee and jams a finger on my right hand. Then just stands there nice and quiet. I can breathe but she is holding me against the wall. You don’t just move over a 1,000 plus pounds cow. I told Hubby to try and get the calf on her. He tries but it doesn’t work. After about ten minutes I have to move so we give up and let Oprah go. We still have a hold on the calf and manage to get him into the horse pen and keep Oprah out. Hubby straddles him and I get the nipple in his mouth and then finally he starts to suck on the bottle. Thank you Father! Food! He drains the bottle and wants some more. We don’t want to give him too much and it is dark now. We let baby go back to Oprah and things quiet some. We manage to get all the extra cows out except Jezzy. We want Oprah to have another cow in with her. Jezzy will have her first calf soon as well. She loves to be petted.
Needless to say I was ready to go to bed. I took three Ibuprofen and off to sleep. Oh and strangely enough, my knee doesn’t hurt any more! I have been having trouble with it for several months. Until Oprah slammed it. Now it is just fine. Not that I recommend wrestling with a cow to get it fix it. 🙂
Stay Safe and God Bless!