My little herd now numbers an even dozen: four mature cows, three first-time heifers (expecting their first calves), a steer that’ll be ready to harvest in July or August, and four 10-month old calves (one heifer and three steers).
If all goes as planned (yes, I’m grinning), we should greet seven new calves in late-March-late April.
I’m excited, and apprehensive. This’ll be our third crop of calves, and we’ve learned enough to know just how much we don’t know about what can happen. For instance, in 2010, I learned that a calf can slip under a fence that’s just 9-12″ above the ground. Last year, we found out that twins can stress a cow to a breaking point.
There was heavy snow and ice on the ground last March when our usually-reliable Britta walked away from a shivering infant bull calf. At just 45 lbs, he was the survivor; his much bigger brother was still born. Fortunately, I had powdered colostrum and a nursing bottle on hand. We fired up the microwave that was sitting in the barn and were able to get a quart or so of warm milk into him before evening. All the while, I kept an eye out for Britta, but she was nowhere to be seen.
That was nearly a year ago, before we’d built our house on the farm. If we’d had a garage, we could’ve scooped the little guy up and bedded him down for the night. I’ve heard lots of stories about farmers keeping bovine infants under heat lamps or warming them up in hot baths.
As it was, we had the shed/barn readily available, but I really didn’t want to remove him from the cow’s direct line of sight.
So, with evening fast approaching, Dave and I pulled hay around the calf and we trudged back to our truck. We sat for a while and watched from a distance. We breathed a sigh of relief when Britta slowly walked up a hill and back towards the calf. She began licking him clean and getting his circulation moving. His chances for survival jumped with his dam back in the picture.
We named him Pip, because he was so small. That was 10 months ago. Today Pip is our second-largest steer, and Britta is looking lots better.
So, if everything goes well, we’ll have seven calves this spring. Anyone want to take a guess at how many will be females and how many will be males?