Yesterday, we were fixin’ to leave the ranch to go to town when we heard a knock on the door, which is unusual because we have a locked gate and a sign that says, “Patrolled by shotgun three days a week. Guess which days.”
Anyway, this brave soul had parked his vehicle outside the closed gate and climbed through to walk up the lane. I opened the front door and he said that he had a calf in his car and was looking for the owner. He said it was caught in barbed wire close to the highway. He saw afterbirth, but no mother cow around. So, he scooped it up. All the fight was out of it, he said.
I told him it was not ours but I thought I knew to whom it belonged and opened the gate remotely by the magic of electronics so he could drive to the barn. It was in the back seat of his Jeep Cherokee. We put it in a stall. It was big for a newborn, probably 100 pounds, but it still had the umbilical cord so I reckon he was right about its time of birth. It is a Hereford. Those have cute white faces and red bodies. My wife, Sugar, immediately wanted it as her own. Her mothering instincts kicked in.
We went into action. We drove to a farm and ranch store twenty miles away. We bought colostrum, which orphaned calves need within the first few hours of birth, and milk replacer for on-going nutrition. We hurried back. Sugar got started with bottle-feeding the baby. I called Zach, the ranch manager for the big (16,000 acres) ranch bordering us. He had been looking for the calf. Zach said it was born around 6 a.m. He said the mother somehow got across the highway and then couldn’t figure out how to get back. Zach said she lost her baby last year too and that it died. Surprise! (My next call should have been to Social Services to report her unfitness and neglect.)
Zach said the calf was born right by the highway fence. He had the problem with the mother leaving and then when he came back to the calf, it was gone, taken by the Good Samaritan in the interim.
Zach and his five-year-old daughter came over with a stock trailer. The calf stood up on shaky legs and even stepped up into the trailer with little help. Since it has a mother, such as she is, the milk replacer is unnecessary. So was the colostrum.
Miss Sugar misses the calf. She was hoping she could keep it. I reminded her that at 3:00 a.m. she will be glad the calf is with his mother. For the first couple days newborn calves need to be fed every two hours, then tapering to three times a day for the duration until weaning. Sugar might have even expected me to take a couple shifts. We were spared. So was the calf, provided his mother can handle the job.
P.S. Zach told me the next day that the mother and calf have hooked up. He is now nursing. That is preferable to bottle feeding every two hours.
Another calf another time.