Thursday, September 17, 2009

Little Orphan Annie or, um, Oliver

Jason has been taking care of his folks' cows while they are away. Of course this would be the best time for all the preggy cows to start calving.
A couple of evenings ago, Jason went out to feed and water and found a little calf curled up in the tall grass on the other side of the fence, away from the herd. He got the little bugger up and back over to the right side of the fence, but none of the cows would take the calf. The poor little thing just wandered into the herd, going from cow to cow. The cows would sniff it and then push it away or kick at it. Jason watched it for a while but none of the cows would claim it. There wasn't much that could be done for it at that point because it was getting dark. At least the calf was in with the herd and a herd will usually respond in number if a calf gets into danger and starts bawling.

The next evening Jason went to feed and water and the calf still didn't have a mama. It wandered around in the herd ("Are you my mama?!") but could not find any cow it could cozy up to. It seemed to be hanging around a cow with a new calf, but the cow kept pushing it away.
We didn't want to make the mistake of taking it from its mama if there is any chance she would take it. Calves do much better on their mother's milk than they do on a supplement. We wanted to give it some time to see if one of the cows would claim the calf.

Yesterday morning we went back out to check and couldn't find the calf. All the other calves were with their mothers and being cared for. It was a heart-sick feeling when we couldn't find the little one. After a lot of searching, we finally found her along the tree line clear across the pasture from the herd. We riled her up, got her bawling and the herd came running. She went in with the herd and they all sniffed her, but again, nobody would claim her.

We think this little orphan calf is a twin and the mama cow doesn't know it belongs to her. Sometimes cows can do this when they have twins--they have one calf and then get busy having the other and forget the first, or tend the second calf and then the first calf doesn't smell the same, or, in this case, we think the first calf got across the fence and maybe the mama thought her baby had died or something. There are no other cows in the herd with full bags right now that would indicate that they had recently had a calf. All indications are this is a twin calf that got missed.

Well we waited long enough, something needed to be done. Jason and a neighbor went out to bring the calf up to the corral where we can feed it. They decided their strategy would be for the neighbor to stay on the four-wheeler while Jason went into the herd to grab the calf and run back to the four-wheeler. And I didn't have my video camera with me!!!!!!
Jason grabbed the baby, high-tailed it out of the herd, dove on the four-wheeler with a kicking, bawling calf in his arms, and away they went. I guess it was about time Jason let his inner-cowboy out into the daylight! Yeeee-ha!
Once in the corral Jason was able to entice the baby to take her bottle and she gulped down the whole thing. Poor little thing was so hungry and shaky.

I went over to check on her this morning. She is awfully skinny but still strong.

She bawls a lot but the bull (this is R.B.--yep, pronounced "Arby") is in a pen right next to her and he was answering her crying with gentle "moos" and touching noses with her through the fence.
I had to fight with her for about half an hour trying to get her to take milk. She doesn't like the bottle and tries to push it out of her mouth.

Tommy the cat, on the other hand, loved the milk and positioned himself right under the calf's mouth so any milk spilling from the bottle was all his!

Finally little Annie decided to take the bottle and gulped it down. I found that stroking her cheeks seemed to help her latch on to the bottle better and settle down to eating. That's a trick I used to use on my own kids. ;)

Well then, the old psych training kicked in and I remembered the baby monkey experiments. The baby monkeys who had no mamas in the cage with them, just a bottle, died even though they received the same nutrition as the other monkeys who had a soft cloth mama to sit on in their cages.
Babies need mamas, they need love and affection. I watch my cow with her calf and they frequently touch noses, snuggle, and Shirley grooms Elvis all the time. Little Annie looked so sad and alone. At one point she even had a tear form and fall from her eye. Jason told me that cows don't cry but now I'm not so sure.

So I scratched her.

We play scratching games with the horses, just a good, all-over, 10 minute scratching session that seems to do a lot for the horses.
I figured I'd try it with Annie. At first she was a little nervous but she started relaxing and pretty soon she was standing right up against my leg, leaning against it. Then her little head turned a bit and she rested it across my leg and just snuggled in and I could feel her whole body relax against me.
She is a sweetheart and I have always found it fun to play with the babies. Gotta love the babies! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment