It all started with a busted water hose. We were headed to the coop this morning to feed the chickens, when I noticed we had a beautiful ‘fountain’ that had sprung up in the weaning pen. After the chickens were taken care of, we headed around there to see the extent of the problem. As we approached the gate, the County Boy stopped short, and I heard him mutter, “What!?!?” I stepped around him and saw where Mya, one of our young heifers, was cleaning up a calf. Since we had a ‘surprise’ calf on Thursday, I had already been keeping an eye out on the cows in the big pasture, but never realized that I would need to be doing that in the weaning pen. I mean, Birdie was only in there for less than two days, and the majority of that was him getting out and us putting him back in. Besides, at that time, he was barely over a year old.
The Country Boy turned off the water, and we eased over to check the calf. As we watched, she stood up and made her way over to nurse. Although a bit concerned about Mya’s small bag, we backed off and would let Nature take its course – under our watchful eye, of course. I took another good look around the big pasture, and saw no signs of any immediate calving. In fact, everyone was happily grazing.
We headed off to get feed and parts to fix the ‘fountain’. We were only gone a little under an hour. Our first stop was to unload the feed, as it had already rained once and we knew we were in for more. That done, I headed into the house and the Country Boy headed out to fix the water trough and stop the fountain. Ten minutes later, he called and told me to hurry up and come outside. Bossy (our Jersey) had had twins. I grabbed my camera and hot-footed out to the back pasture.
Both calves were very small. One – with a white face and red body – was trying to stand, and as we watched, she wobbled her way to nurse. The other – solid red – was laying on the ground. We talked in low voices to Bossy, and watched the progress. She is a very attentive mama, and she stood still while the one calf tried to nurse, but kept an eye on the other calf. After about five minutes, the red one tried to stand, but was unable. After about ten minutes, we eased over to try and help. No go. This wasn’t good.
We decided to give it some time, and headed back up to finish up our chores. An hour or so later, we headed back down, and the red calf still couldn’t stand. It was time to get seriously involved. This is a time when, as farmers, you become very focused – to the point where you don’t really see anything else around you. You don’t look up to see the beautiful colors of sunset trying to peek through the dark clouds. You really don’t feel that it is hot and muggy, and you don’t pay attention to soaking wet tennis shoes or sweat pouring down your neck and back. You don’t notice that your heart is lodged firmly in your throat with concern. You just move carefully and slowly, and take care of business.
Armed with a bucket of Range Cubes, we distracted Bossy just barely long enough to get the red calf in the back of the truck. She became a bit nervous, but hung close to the calf and snatched at Range Cubes. As The Country Boy brought the white-faced calf to the truck, she became antsy. When he got in the truck and began to slowly drive away, she became down-right agitated. She followed us up through the pasture, trying her best to get to the calves – even to the point of running up to the driver’s side window and trying to climb in and make the truck stop. It took some maneuvering, but we finally got her and the calves safely situated in the barn. The Country Boy went to get her some feed. I headed in the house to fix a bottle of colostrum.
Since the red calf still couldn’t stand, I had to sit on the dirt floor of the barn. He was on my left, the other cozied up to my right. I finally managed to get the red calf to nurse, and he guzzled all he could stand, with a few breaks to come up for air. The white-faced one wouldn’t eat, but her tummy was a bit tight, so we are hoping she finally did nurse. Still, it is imperative to get colostrum into a calf as soon as possible – preferably within six hours, although the maximum amount of time is 12 hours. We needed to be sure. Unfortunately, I only had enough colostrum to mix up 2 pints, so we had to make an emergency run to Jim and Lorea’s – friends who also have calves and stay prepared. When we got back, both calves were too sleepy to drink much, so we gave Bossy a little more feed and some hay, and headed in the house.
My alarm clock is set for 3:00 a.m. I will get up and go check on the calves. If they are standing and trying to nurse, my feeding job will be over. If not, I will have to feed again until they gain the strength to nurse on Bossy. The bad thing is, this week is going to be crazy. Tomorrow is Monday. I have the monthly Council Meeting, which now means I will have to be there at 5:00 a.m. in order to get all my work done, hopefully by 10:00 a.m. From there, I have to head to the feed store to buy more colostrum, milk replacer and dairy feed. I need to scoot back to the house, check the calves, bottle-feed if necessary, take a quick nap before having to return to the Village for the actual Council Meeting. Tuesday I have to be in Shreveport to deal with a few things at my other job. If the calves still aren’t nursing on their own, I have to feed before I leave, hurry up and get my work done so I can come back and feed again. Wednesday and Thursday I have to go to my third job, which requires me to be there at 5:30 in the morning, and it is very difficult for me to leave during the day. For the next several days, the calves will have to be fed approximately every six hours – and Bossy will not tolerate anyone she isn’t familiar with to get anywhere close to the calves.
Living Simply may be the journey in life I have chosen, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the journey is simple or easy. It can be peaceful, but it can also become very hectic and stressful within the blink of an eye. I know without a doubt that I will be very tired for the next week and my sleep cycle will be interrupted every five hours or so. And I know my heart won’t settle back in my chest until I know that not only are the twins going to be okay, but that every other cow and heifer we have on the place has safely had their calves with no further problems. But it is well worth the effort – in both good times and bad. Just take a look at that sweet face, and you will understand what I mean.
Three down – eleven more to go. Unless there is another set of twins. Lesson learned. Never, ever, ever, underestimate a 13-month old bull calf who is determined to become the next Houdini and seems to be spending all his time trying to escape the confines of the weaning pen. Apparently he can multi-task just fine. Sigh….