Thursday, August 8, 2013

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

We returned to Austin the end of January and began settling back into our routine.  Of course, we had to try out some Cambodian recipes, including this wonderful curry.

At our farm in Hamilton, Texas, new baby calves began hitting the ground.  Babies of almost any species are cute, but I think you’ll agree that these little white-faced charmers are among the most appealing.

One of the calves holds a special place in our hearts.  This little fellow, shown taking a nap after breakfast, almost didn’t make it. 

His mother’s udder was so large that he couldn’t find her teats.  He kept nuzzling her flank, where Mother Nature told him to look.  However, her teats were almost a foot lower...not at all where he expected them to be.  By the time we found him, his mother (known affectionately as J3) had given up on getting him to nurse, and he had almost given up trying.  

When we found the calf, it was late afternoon.  We put J3 in the squeeze chute so she couldn’t get away.  Then for the next three hours John kept the calf positioned behind the cow and I crouched beside her.  When John shoved the calf’s head between her legs, I grabbed a teat and stuffed it in his mouth.  The calf would nurse until he had to take a breath, then he would turn loose and we would repeat the entire procedure.  Now, if you’ve never spent three hours crouched under a 1,000 pound angus cow who didn’t want to be there, you have missed one of Life’s signature experiences.  It’s one I will always cherish but don’t especially want to repeat.  Fortunately we had a full moon, because it was almost 10 p.m. by the time he calf was finally full and we could go home to our own dinner.

But that wasn’t the end of things.  We assumed (Silly Us!) that when we turned the cow out of the lot, she and her calf would march together out the gate in search of the other cows.  NOT!  When we released the cow, she went straight out the gate; but she didn’t even look back.  The calf, clueless, stood in the middle of the lot and watched her go.  John by this time had gone to the house.  I started walking up the hill from the barn with the calf trailing behind.  We covered the couple of hundred yards together with the little fellow happily walking behind his new “mother.”  

John and I loaded him into the back seat of the truck and drove him down to where the cows (including his mother) were bedded down for the night.  The next morning, we went to check on him.  J3 was there with the other cows, but her calf was nowhere in sight.  John and I took the dogs and searched the surrounding brushy hillside for almost an hour with no success. 

The dogs and I then headed toward the barn.  A short time later Kota troted down and “pointed” the calf in the lot near where he had nursed the night before  (the two Border Collie cow dogs ran by so fast they didn’t even see him).  Apparently the little fellow either couldn’t find or didn’t recognize his mother, so he went “home” to where he had eaten earlier.  That’s quite an accomplishment for a two-day-old calf in the middle of the night, as the cows were bedded down a good quarter of a mile away.

John and I repeated the procedure from the night before, only this time we kept the cow locked in the corral after her baby had nursed.  Fortunately, by the following day, the calf had learned where to look for his dinner and J3 had accepted him.  All things considered it was a great outcome, but not without effort.

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