Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The rest of the calf story

Yesterday around 1:30 PM, Bonnie had her bull calf, one of the largest and longest-legged Jersey calves I've ever seen, especially from a first-calf heifer. If you watched the video of Bonnie licking her baby, you might have noticed his attempts to get up. Everything was hunky-dory; I called Cliff on the cell phone and he came back to have a look.

Our property is on a river bluff of wind-blown soil that washes easily; there are ravines at the back of the place that are like our own personal Grand Canyons. Some of the inclines are practically straight up and down.

Cliff admired the calf, and then mentioned the close proximity of one of those canyons. "Sure as anything," he said, "that calf will end up at the bottom of that hill."

"Nah, never happen," I told him, as I walked over to the edge and peered down. "It doesn't really get that steep for several feet down."

We've had cows having calves all over this property through the years, and none ever fell down into a canyon.

I came back to the house to make Cliff's lunch for work; then I told him I was heading back to make sure the calf got some milk.

When I got there, all the other cows were in the same spot where I'd left them. Bonnie and baby were nowhere in sight, and my heart sank. I was barefoot and wearing shorts, but I followed a noticeable trail through weeds and brush down the hill; about two-thirds of the way to the bottom in a two-foot-deep trench worn there by recent rains was Bonnie, standing over her calf who lay there stuck, mostly on his back with his head at an unnatural angle. When I first got to them, I was sure he was dead, but as I wrestled him upright, I knew he was alive. I stuck my finger in his mouth hoping he'd suck on it and come to life looking for milk; the inside of his mouth was cold. Not a good sign.

Now folks, I had my camera in a pocket, but I was so sure this story would have an unhappy ending that I decided against taking a picture.

This bank is so steep, a person is doing well to climb it unburdened. I knew there was no way I'd get a 60-pound calf to the top. I looked at my cell phone; no signal. I got above the calf and dragged him perhaps two feet, then got at the other end to prevent his slipping down. I rested and took him another two or three feet. I repeated this over a few times and actually had moved him perhaps twenty feet from his original spot. Looking up, though, the bank became steeper.

I left him in what I felt was a secure place where he wouldn't slide down and went up the hill far enough to get a signal on my cell phone; I called Cliff, who was on the way to work.

"You were right," I told him. "The calf evidently somersaulted down the bank, and his mom followed."

I explained that I was trying to get him up the hill, and suddenly I remembered Kevin, my son-in-law.

"Hey, Kevin isn't working right now!"

"That's right," Cliff answered. "Call him."

Kevin got the calf to the top of the hill for me; he was a lifesaver, because I don't see any way I'd have gotten it done by myself.

Here's a picture I took before Kevin arrived, after I'd moved the calf some.

Stay tuned for part two, because there's more.


Tara said...

Oh no!

Hollie said...

I hope he's doing fine!

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I will be waiting for part 2 - I do hope all is ok.