One of the most fun and blessed events around here is when a new calf joins the farm. A major portion of our farm income is from our cows. We have been in a drought over the summer. Our pasture is crispy and more tan than green. Look closely, and what you think are blades of grass are really tongues hanging out from thirst. It may not be raining on the Plantation, but it is still pouring…with calves instead of water! Consequently, it is imperative that we watch for several things to make sure we have a healthy calf crop:
• When a calf is born, it is of utmost importance that the calf be strong enough to stand within the first half hour – the sooner the better.
• Every calf requires being licked and cleaned by the Mother. First, this helps with circulation. Second, it removes all the birthing fluids that might alert a predator that a weak baby is nearby.
• Each newborn needs to be able to nurse as quickly as possible, preferably within the first hour. This is due to the ‘first milk’ which contains natural colostrum. Colostrum is what puts a baby calf on the road to a healthy life. Without this, there is a strong likelihood for death.
• If for some reason the mother cannot provide first milk, a farmer can use a powdered version that is mixed with warm water. Bottle feeding a calf can be difficult. A calf is born with a few instincts. Being held by a human with a plastic bottle and nipple is definitely not one of them. As a precautionary measure, we keep a bag of powdered colostrum in our freezer.
One of the best surprises of this bunch is that two of the new babies are almost completely white. The only way to tell them apart is by looking at the neck at the spot pattern, as well as the ears (one has a light brown outline around the tip of his ears). White calves are unusual for us. The coloring goes back two generations when these calves’ grandmothers were bred by Snowball, a Charolais bull borrowed from a neighbor. In fact, it is so unusual, that Ayn mistook the first white calf for one of her newborn lambs.
Needless to say, I have wandered all over the Bovine B&B checking out the new calf crop and the health and well-being of both the babies and the Mamas. To date, we have five, and are one the watch for 13 more. And this weekend, the cows will be coming home from their summer vacation so we can keep a closer eye out.
Plus, one of the expectant moms is Bossy, our Jersey milk cow. I want her back home so I can easily move her into the barn when she has her calf. Once it arrives, I have 10 days before I have to start milking every morning. And this Farm Wife has no desire to try and tie that bratty cow to a tree to milk – not to mention trying to carry a full milk pail from one side of the road to the other.
I love it when the drought on the farm is broken. Rain is refreshing to the pastures and I love to see grass grow. It also refreshes my very spirit when the cattle ‘drought’ is broken. That is when my heart starts to grow – with love for these sweet precious babies!