Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Adventures in cattle raising

Last week our final cow gave birth to a calf... the first from our new bull! Here they are (at a distance, hence the blurriness) on the baby's first day:

Can you see how full the mother's udder is? Well, it stayed like that, and got worse. As much as we watched, we never saw the calf nursing. Instead she would suck on the mother's dewlap (chest/neck skin flap). The only other place we ever actually saw her sucking was the fold of skin beside the cow's thigh. After a few days we were concerned, but she was still alive and still able to walk around normally, so we figured she must be getting something.

However, as the days wore on, she seemed skinnier and weaker and we began to really worry, and finally, this morning, Stephen managed to separate out the calf from the rest of the herd, into the round pen.

Once again, we are dealing with far less than ideal facilities. The round pen is a) too big a pen for a calf, b) has no roof or shade, c) right in the middle of the field where the calf's mother is. The mother was NOT AMUSED. General wisdom is that it is usually more dangerous to get between a mother cow and her calf than to deal with a bull.

Stephen went out and bought calf milk replacer and BIG baby bottle. He had a rough time of it with her the first time. It took 20 minutes for her to even figure out what to do. The night feeding went a little better, only taking her about 5 minutes to figure it out. Here he is, succesfully feeding his girl:

Mama is having a rough time; she wants her baby! She hovers around the pen, and stays even when the other cows leave. Getting in and out of the pen is scary because in her distress (especially after she's watched the baby being tackled and fed) she wants to charge anything, just to get her frustration out. The dogs have taken the brunt of the chasing.

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