On the craziest of days, I go to my family’s farm to find peace, tranquility and solace. It is my happy place. During calving season, I drive 32 miles round-trip twice a day. It is exhausting, but necessary.
Three weeks ago, our first calf of the season arrived out in the middle of a lot early in the morning, with a frigid south wind in the snow. The mother cow was doing her best to clean him off, but little Frasier was shivering and still wet. I knew if he was going to survive, I needed to intervene.
So I pulled him to our newly-acquired calving pen on a self-made sled and tried to warm him up with heaters and warm hay. Hours into the ordeal of reuniting the cow and calf, I finally gave up and gave him a bottle of colostrum milk.
A week later, I was still bottle feeding the little calf, even though his mother was in “solitary confinement” with him. The cow, Helen, didn’t seem too concerned about her calf’s well-being.
When we finally were able to keep him warm with the help of a large dog’s fleece coat, we released the pair into the herd. To my surprise, Helen was fiercely protective of her off-spring and watched the other cows and calves closely for interference, but Frasier was still not nursing.
After a couple of days of bottle feeding in the middle of the herd of cows having their alfalfa rations, I arrived to do chores and found my services were no longer needed. Frasier was finally nursing from his mother.
I wasn’t sure he was going to live, but now he is not only sucking his mother dry regularly, but has adopted a few other mothers. He seems to be thriving.
Then our resident stalker cow, Heart, stole baby Daphne from her mother until she gave birth to her own calf – Roz. Heart couldn’t decide which baby she should take care of and was running back and forth checking on them both. So off to the calving pen and “solitary confinement” she went with baby Roz until she could calm down.
Two days later, Heart developed milk fever and I had to have the vet make a farm visit to give her an IV of potassium.
Two days later, she went back to general population with Roz and is no longer interested in Daphne.
Just this past Saturday, I arrived at the farm to find a new arrival. The heifer calf, Maris, was up and wondering around, but had not yet sucked. There was a lot of activity in the barn with a feed delivery, so up to the calving pen the pair went for a little quiet time.
We fired up the heater and wrapped her in the fleece coat to keep her from shivering and ultimately gave her a bottle of colostrum milk. We even reused an old wood box that was in our shed and cut holes for heat lamps butting it up against the calving pen. Operation “toasty calf” was a success. By Sunday, we helped Maris figure out how to nurse and she latched on immediately.
I was ready to call the weekend a success until the dogs got sprayed by a skunk. Tomato juice for everyone and everywhere!
This may sound like complete chaos, and it is! But yet, my heart is happy and I am reminded that God is always in control.
Where is your calving pen--the place you go to find peace?