When I fed the cows that morning, I knew Scarlett would have her baby by nightfall. It would be her first baby so I kept checking on her throughout the day. At one point, I saw her and the baby laying down together in the shade along a fence line and assumed that all was well. When I checked an hour later, Scarlett was nowhere to be seen, the baby was laying in the hot sun on the dam to our pond and he had not been cleaned off. Our steer was bullying him…butting at him…and no mama there to protect him!
I filled a bucket with feed and called the cows – hoping that Scarlett would come and find her baby. Scarlett didn’t come but her baby did come up with the other cows. I ran to turn off the electric fence, went into the field and began pulling, shoving and pushing the baby to get him under the electric fence and into our yard. I figured he probably weighed 80 pounds! I called my son who lives next door for help. Then ran to turn the fence back on.
We got him into the shade and poured some cool water on him – he was way to hot. Then offered him some colostrum. Since he wasn’t cleaned off, I figured he had probably not nursed. By cleaning their babies, this helps mama cow bond to her baby.
We needed to go find mama – I was praying that she didn’t die from the birth. But where to put baby while we were looking for her? I decided to put him on my back deck – safe, soon to be in shade and he couldn’t wander off. My back deck is my plant nursery, it is where I raise chicks and keets when they hatch from the eggs that I incubate (the wood box on the left) and now it’s my calf nursery too!
Once the calf was safe, we jumped in the Kubota and went looking for mama. We found her over the hill, munching on grass and not concerned about her calf at all – so not normal! Most mama’s don’t let their new babies out of their sight.
We called for reinforcements and another of my sons arrived to help get mama into a stall in the barn. It was a comedy of errors! She was skittish, wouldn’t follow feed or baby…normally we can carry a baby and mama will follow us to where ever we go. The Kubota got stuck, we had to get the tractor to pull the Kubota out! Finally they got her into our corral, got a halter on her and tied her to the Kubota. It was a long, slow walk to the barn – Scarlett didn’t cooperate at all. Just picture a cow with all four hooves planted firmly on the ground unwilling to move. It took 6 hours to get it all done. Dark was coming on fast.
Once mama was secure, my son that had given baby it’s bottle went to get him. Obviously, baby thought that my son was his mama…after all he had the milk! He followed him all the way through the yard and the field out to the barn!
We put baby into the stall with Scarlett and fed her. He latched on pretty quickly and began to empty her, quarter by quarter. I was so thankful because he needed that colostrum.
We were thinking that all was going to be well. And it was….as long as mama was eating. What happened after she finished her feed horrified me! She dropped her head and put her nose under his belly – I thought she was going to nuzzle him, clean him off…instead she picked him up and slammed him HARD against the barn wall…then dropped him and did it a second time. Elijah had gone to get a hose for her water tank but he heard me screaming and was back in a flash! We tried all the tricks…we put molasses down his back, mineral salt too since she was interested in that. Anything we could think of to induce her to lick him but she wouldn’t!
Baby had curled into a corner and she turned on him again before we could get him out – she butted him hard against the wall twice! Elijah jumped in and grabbed the baby before she could kill him. I had no doubt that if we left him there he would be dead by morning. We placed him back on the back deck until we could figure out a better plan.
We needed to get a field ready for this little one. In the mean time he couldn’t stay on my deck. I decided to put him in the chicken field. The electric fence would keep him safe until we could make other arrangements. He wasn’t quite sure what to think of the chickens and he learned very quickly not to touch the fence.
We tried several times to put baby back with mama – she refused to accept him. We gave her four days – I was hoping it would be enough time for hormones to calm down a little. The last time she wouldn’t even let him nurse. Perhaps she would be better with her next baby but I don’t think so. I’m not willing to feed her for a year to find out and end up going through this again. Irish Dexter Cattle are typically very gentle! I also don’t want that disposition in my herd. She’ll fill my freezer as soon as I can get her processed.
One of my sons mowed the field around our red barn and I spent a day hauling a hay bale up there and pitching hay inside so he could get out of the sun and rain and have a soft, safe place to sleep.
I’m now bottle feeding this little one until he’s old enough to survive on grass. I’m hoping that once the rest of the girls have their calves, they will help raise this little one. A friend told me that when she was in this situation, all of her girls let her little orphan nurse so essentially her herd raised the baby! Praying for that same result.
For all of the grandkids sake, anything that will be harvested gets a “food name” so that they know from the beginning that this is food – and they don’t get attached. We’ve had Burger, Sir Loin, Potter (for Pot Roast) and more.
This little one needs a name…I thought maybe my readers might have a suggestion? Winner gets a package of soap from me! I’ll leave this open until the end of the month and then we’ll choose a name from your suggestions!