Four more calves were born last week. I’m always thrilled when a calf is born, especially when it stands and nurses on its own. When a calf is born, I like to bring the mother and baby to the safety of the holding pen so that the pair can bond without the interference of the herd, and I can give the mom grain and extra alfalfa cubes to fuel her recovery and milk production. More importantly, the pair is safe from the coyotes who live just one forest over, and if necessary, I can help the calf find its mom’s teats. Except for two of the six, the little ones found their mother’s dairy bar without help.
Most times, the mother cow moves willingly to the holding pen. Sometimes not, as I found out when I discovered Laney, a first-time mother, and her adorable white calf in the field next to coyote country. At first, Laney didn’t mind if we touched her calf, and with three helpers, we started moving the pair to the holding pen.
Sometimes it works to carry the calf while Mom follows behind, so I asked farm worker Matt to pick up the baby. While you’d think a mom would know that a human is carrying her calf, most cows, Laney included, get confused when their calf is lifted off the ground. When Matt picked up the calf, Laney thought her calf had “disappeared” and frantically searched, “finding” it after Matt put it down. Usually, after two or three tries, the mom learns to follow the human carrying the calf.
Instead, Laney decided that Matt was trying to steal her calf. When Matt bent to lift the calf again, Laney threatened him by shaking her horns and stepping forward. We gave up the carrying idea, and instead, I encouraged the calf toward the holding pen as Laney walked beside. We made it to the entrance when Bugsy the cow and Ferdinand the bull came by to eat the grain we had put out for Laney.
Laney must have felt cornered and threatened with so many people (four of us) and cattle (three of them), and as I tried to move Ferdinand away, she jabbed me with a horn. I hurried away, lucky that she hit me where I have ample padding – my butt. It didn’t break the skin, but it didn’t tickle either.
Laney was upset, so we took up the waiting game and watched as she slowly followed her calf into the holding pen, where she gobbled down the grain waiting for her.
The next day, Laney was back to her calm self. Her calf was safe and nursing, and Laney seemed to forget her raging protective hormones of the day before. After all, she was doing what a cow should do: protecting her calf. In hindsight, we could have left that pair alone. Laney would have been a fierce adversary for the coyotes.
Henrietta’s calf was born two days later, but unlike Laney, she let me carry the 50-pound heifer to the holding pen, putting the calf down every 10 feet for Henrietta to see and to give my 71-year-old body a rest.
We expect four more calves and no more drama, but even the drama is worth it as I watch the newborn calves dash around their mothers, bouncing into the air and kicking their heels. Each calf is a gift that helps me forget the bruise that only hurts when I sit.
Be sure to visit the Foundation at 56 Whitehouse Rd, Loudon, NH on Wednesdays-Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see these adorable calves.