Thursday, March 09, 2006

Calf developments

This morning we awoke to The Princess crying from a nightmare. While Stephen was rocking her, the weather alert went off with a tornado warning for our county.

Things were still outside, no rain or wind even, so I just went back to sleep. At 5:30 we awoke to pouring rain and gusting winds. The calf! She was still in the round pen with no shelter.

Stephen and I got dressed, pulled on our boots and headed out. We were concerned about the Mama, who has been easing up a bit in her vigilance, but who is still worried about her baby. From the safety of the horse corral I shone the light all around. We could see the horses and donkey, but no cows (although it was pretty difficult to tell for sure since it was pitch black and raining... mostly we gauged by the height of the eyes shining back at us).

Stephen entered the round pen and ran the calf until he cornered her, while I shone the flashlight from the safety of a horse corral. He picked her up, I raced out of the corral and opened the round pen gate, and we stumbled through the mud and rain praying fervently that the mother wasn't about to kill us (where to shine the flashlight? Into the night to find a cow? On the ground to keep from falling?). We made it to the sheep pen, while the dogs brought way to much attention to us (and made us furious) by barking wildly. We made it through the last gate and let the calf go.

After we caught our breath (even a 1 week old calf is pretty heavy; my excuse was purely adrenaline related), Stephen caught her again, and put her into the cattle trailer so she could have a roof (we don't yet have a good place to hold her that is water tight). After checking to make sure the broilers weren't drowning in their coop, Stephen went back and dried the calf off with some towels.

After the sun came up, he took the kids to feed her for their first time. She is finally in a place that I feel is safe for them to approach her (they don't have to go through the mother). She did great! Farmer Boy did much of the feeding, and Stephen wants him to take on this responsibility now (don't tell: I'm a little jealous).

Later in the morning, I was standing in the kitchen cutting fruit, and I heard the mama cow mooing for her baby. I looked up, and through the window could see her standing forlornly at the now empty round pen. At the time we had a Henry Purcell CD on (our composer of the term), and there was the saddest song playing. Between my pregnancy hormones, the music, and the plaintive mooing of this mama whose baby was now not only out of reach, but out of sight, it was hard to keep my own tears in check. The sad music continued as she finally turned away and walked to the other side of the field to rejoin her "sister" cows.

This afternoon the calf was acting weird and listless, and Farmer Boy and I were worried. Stephen wasn't, though, and sure enough, she was fine in the evening. Guess she was just tired (although part of me wondered if she wasn't a bit depresssed as a result of being separated from her mother... maybe anthropomorphising here a bit). We had visitors from MI arrive with their two young boys, so they got to watch the evening feeding, done mostly by Farmer Boy.

The calf is unbelievably soft and silky, and really seems to thrive with a lot of physical affection. This makes sense... her mama licked her a lot. She is one week and 3 days old today. We're going to have to find a better place for her soon; the trailer really isn't a nice place to live.

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