My Generation

Calves. 2 a.m. Colostrum. Boo.

Also called, "Why I’m Not a Morning Person." Or, "Why Do our Heifers have to Calve in the Middle of the Night?"

So it’s 3:30 in the morning, and I’m sitting here in my kitchen heating water to defrost a bag of frozen colostrum, with one eye on the cow cam. John’s in the barn trying to convince the heifer that just calved that she should care whether her calf lives or dies, which she doesn’t seem so much into right now.

And mostly, I have just one question: why do the heifers on this operation think they need to pop out a calf in the middle of the night? And by “pop out,” I mean “have lots of trouble and need help of human caretakers.” Seriously, this is three times in a week. We’re getting a little tired here.

Anyway, somewhere around
2 a.m., John checked the heifers, found one in need of help and we went out to pull the calf. It was a relatively easy pull. The calf was doing well and, considering our run lately, the fact that he was breathing was pretty much amazing. Then we put the calf in with the cow, and waited for the magic moment when she gets that first whiff of him and goes bananas licking and mooing and claiming and mothering, which is, I think, one of the most inspiring and honest moments that we in livestock production get to see. Something just stirs in this mother’s heart to see a cow come alive for her baby and instantly devote every fiber of her being to making sure her offspring survives. Unless, of course, she doesn’t.

This cow walked up, got a whiff and just stood there. She didn’t exactly turn her back on him, but she didn’t lick either. She just didn’t do anything. Clueless with a capital C.

Eventually, indifference turned to annoyance, as she began to kick at her calf, who, entirely of his own will, struggled to his feet and tried to nurse. In the next pen, Gussie stood with her new calf and mooed gently. Whether she was talking to the new calf or telling the new mother to get a clue, I have no idea. We wound up putting the cow in the chute, tying a back leg and getting the little guy in to nurse, then finding she didn’t have much milk.

Which brings us back to the colostrum. And now it’s
4 a.m., John has taken the colostrum out to the new baby and he’s back in the house. Sleep? Maybe another couple hours. Unless something else happens.

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