I’m tired. I mean, really tired. Emotionally, mentally, physically. Tired.
I’ve acquired a new hat this week: Cattle owner. It’s a hat I’ve always wanted to wear, but it’s not exactly coming in the style I thought I had ordered. This hat has had me up and down through the night, out in the freezing cold when I’d rather be in with my woodstove, dealing with animals that outweigh me by an uncomfortable measure and running into town for a heated water bucket with colostrum-replacer and calf blood on my jeans. Yeah…
Cute calf, right? That’s Brisket (or Briskette, as my friend, Beth, suggested), born early Sunday morning. She’s sweet, isn’t she? She’s got a good momma, which I’ve learned is most of the battle when it comes to healthy calves.
Calf #2 made her entry into the world yesterday some time between 5:30 and 7:45am. The poor little thing was practically frozen on the coldest morning of the season so far. Her momma, whom we affectionately call Cubed Steak, is owned by our neighbor, and he got the pair into the lean-to where they could be somewhat protected from the bitter wind. The momma was antsy and agitated, and he showed me what to watch for to ensure that the calf was getting her mother’s precious colostrum (the first milk that a momma makes).
Over the course of the frigid morning, we checked on the pair regularly. The calf tried to nurse; Cubed Steak kicked it away. The calf tried to nuzzle up under its momma for warmth; the momma butted it onto its skinny behind. It was painful to watch. I can only imagine how the calf must have felt!
Feeling somewhat at risk due to Cubed Steak’s erratic behavior, we warily pulled the calf out of her reach so that we could warm the little thing. We rubbed the baby all over, trying to thaw and dry its frozen fur. Our neighbor brought some colostrum replacer formula, and we mixed it according to package directions in a gargantuan bottle. We were so relieved when the calf drank almost half of its contents and finally sank down into the straw–still shivering, but much drier than she was. We covered her with straw and went inside for lunch, setting the timer to check on her again in an hour.
Next time we checked, the crazy momma had broken through the barrier and into the barn to be with the calf that she would not nurture. Keeping my distance from the nutty momma and keeping my eye on the baby, I herded Cubed Steak back to where she belonged. The baby followed her and got kicked for trying to nurse and head-butted for trying to snuggle. I was angry and sad. Stupid heifer.
When we went to check on them again, the calf was in with her momma, trying to nurse and getting kicked. She was back to shivering all over, and Cubed Steak was acting more erratic. We tried to give the baby the rest of her bottle, but she had no interest in it. Our neighbor told us to call the vet, and the vet said to get her indoors. He and my oldest daughter linked arms under the calf’s belly and carried her inside.
I have a calf in my basement.
We put her in a whelping box under a heat lamp and rubbed her red fur until she was all soft and fluffy. We covered her with towels and let her snuggle in to wait for the vet’s visit. The kids took turns rubbing her and keeping her company, and she seemed to enjoy the attention. I felt somewhat relieved that she was now warm, but I knew that she was not out of the woods yet.
When the vet arrived, he mixed another bottle for her, and she would not take it. Her nose was bright red from frostbite and we were told that she might lose her ears due to the severe cold. Lose her ears!? Argh!!! I wanted healthy, happy, frolicking-through-the-dandelions calves, not frozen, starving, born-in-the-dead-of-winter calves! I wanted calves that would eat and mommas that let them! I wanted easy, fun, loving, gentle cattle ownership, not two-dozen-trips-to-the-barn-in-cold-that-makes-my-eyes-water-and-I-can’t-sleep-’cause-I’m-sick-with-worry cattle ownership. Obviously, I am a little thin-skinned for this new venture.
So, here we are on Day 2 of Little Red Rose’s life at Country Haven. She is still sweet and soft and fuzzy and warm, and she is still in our basement. After refusing to eat this morning, she finally took a bottle this afternoon. She is bright-eyed and sweet-tempered and loves to snuggle with the kids. We are all learning a lot of Life Lessons in between our reading, writing and ‘rithmetic this week. Red Rose is not out of the woods yet, but we’re hopeful. If all goes well, she will be back out in the barn tomorrow.
Me? I’m adjusting to my new hat. It’s not what I would have chosen, but it is a provision from God Almighty. And, I know He has given me everything I need to wear this hat to the best of my ability. So, I will keep adjusting to my new role with the abundance of help that is coming from friends and neighbors.