Will to Live

The last week has brought a lot of new baby calves and warmer weather so calving has been going better.  It also brought a certain calf that will be the focus of this week's post.  It has many more challenges than a normal calf, but the good news is that it has been handling them quite well.  

I don't know what caused it.  Maybe it was a genetic problem or how he developed in the womb.  When he was first born, he didn't act quite right.  He was sticking his nose straight up in the air flailing around.  He didn't seem to be able to see or stand up.  I checked if he was willing to try to eat and he seemed to want to try.  I milked some colostrum out of his mother into a bottle and he sucked it right down.  

The next day, I repeated this and he seemed hungry, but not as enthusiastic.  He kept trying to stand up, but couldn't do it.  I helped to hold him up and that brought back his excitement.  The calf was happy with this system and by the end of the day was standing up, but only on his knees on his front legs.  Every so often he would flail and fall down, but was becoming more stable all the time.  He eventually got up off his knees and could stand "knuckled over" on his ankles.


The following day, the calf got his first try at eating directly from his mother.  He needed help getting the teat in his mouth, but would eat well.  Through all this, his mother was the sweetest cow: very gentle and calm, mothering to the baby and tolerant of me.  However, she did not like being milked by hand.  She tried to kick my hand every time.  Her and I were both much happier once the calf was eating without the bottle.  The cow had to be restrained in the chute so she couldn't move away from him while he was trying to eat.  It wasn't because she was trying to be mean, but she just wasn't sure what to think with me being there too and he couldn't keep up with her nervousness.

It didn't take long for the calf to figure it out and now the calf seems to be able to see enough to find the milk on his own.  They are still in the corral because he has limited mobility and I still think his sight is quite poor.  I wonder how well he can hear because today (at one week old) was the first time that I heard him moo and I'm not convinced that he could make it out in the pasture yet.  Hopefully, he will learn to walk on his front hooves and how to stay close to his mother.  The last few days I haven't even had to point him towards his mother to get him to eat.  It's baby steps for now and I am just happy with each day that he can survive on his own.  


I rarely name the cows.  My neighbor has wisely told me to never name them.  He knows, as do I, that it's easy to get attached and you know that someday they will have to go to the sale barn, get sick, or get old.  A few calves that I have spent a lot of time with have been named.  I think with all of his struggles, he needs a name.  I'm having a hard time coming up with one.  Do you have any good ideas for me?  I need something fitting for his hardships and determination to live. 


by Brandon Greet

Brandon Greet10 Comments