Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The rest of the story, part 2

Be sure to scroll down and read part one before you read this segment.

Kevin and I pushed and prodded the calf to the top of the steep bank. Bonnie, however, remained rooted to the spot where she had last seen her calf.

Cows sometimes get confused about things, especially if it's their first calf.

I picked up a stick and gently drove Bonnie up the incredibly steep hill and straight to her baby. She ignored the baby and went to the spot where she'd given birth, smelling the birth smells and making that humming "moo" sound as though she were talking to her calf. She didn't recognize her baby.

I drug Baby over to where Bonnie was and plopped him down in the middle of all those bovine bodily fluids (I was so smeared with them myself, I could probably have convinced her to accept me as her baby). The ploy worked, and once again she realized she was this kid's mom.

Cliff had suggested we put the calf on the tailgate of Kevin's pickup and slowly drive up to the barn, hoping maybe the cow would follow. After the confusion that had just arisen, though, I didn't think that would work, and I sent Kevin home, promising I'd let him know if I needed him. I went back to the house and got a tube feeder and a bucket, because that poor calf had used up any energy he had fighting that hill and being pulled, carried, and tossed around.

Back with the cows, Bonnie had gotten rid of her afterbirth and was busy eating it (yes, that's what cows do, and they're not even carnivores). While she was thus occupied, I got on my knees in the grass and milked about a cup of milk out of her and poured it into the tube feeder; that's what you see in the bucket in the above picture; the jug beside the bucket is my water jug.

I could have gotten more milk quite easily, but I didn't want to fill the little guy's belly full; I simply wanted to give him an energy boost so he'd try harder to get on his feet and nurse. I moved him further back from the ditch he'd come out of and made a trip to the house for a lawn chair and a Reader's Digest, because it looked like it might be a long evening and I was tired of sitting in the grass.

He did eventually get up on his wobbly legs; I pondered my next move. I needed him and his mom back at the house, but I was fairly certain she wouldn't follow him in a pickup. So I got behind him and encouraged him in the direction of home; Bonnie followed.

Of course, he didn't make it six feet before he collapsed in a tired heap. I sat in my lawn chair and mulled things over.

Pretty soon I moved my lawn chair a few feet ahead, grabbed the poor calf around his chest, and dragged him up even with the chair. Then I sat down and caught my breath. At least this was taking place on level ground.

I made quite a bit of progress this way, but it was slow going. I can't say I was sorry to see my daughter, her husband, and their daughter walking toward me in the distance. Rachel suggested we take turns carrying the calf, and she picked him up and started off with him. Unfortunately, Bonnie didn't get it, and started in another direction.

We finally figured out that if we walked really slow so Bonnie didn't lose track of Baby, and if we kept his head where she could see it, she would follow; although we almost lost her a couple of times when she started to leave to get a drink. Poor girl had worked hard, and she was thirsty.

So, with plenty of help from my family, we got her settled in at the barn and fed and watered. Then I realized we had another problem with our first-time mom: Every time the still-very-weak calf tried to head for a teat, Bonnie would turn her body away from him. She wanted him right at her head at all times, which of course made it impossible for him to nurse.

I decided to leave them alone and let nature take its course; I went inside and took a much-needed shower and watched the most recent E.R. episode I had recorded on DVR.

I watched them closely out the window, and mom still wasn't allowing the calf to nurse; poor little guy hadn't had any food except for the cupful I'd tube-fed him.

In my nightgown, I went out and let Bonnie in the barn and put her in her stanchion so I could milk her. It was at this point I found out the stanchion isn't snug enough for her skinny head, because when she lost sight of her baby, she pulled out. Foiled again.

As luck would have it, she allowed me to get a cup or so of milk from her swollen udder, even though she was unrestrained. I hunted up a calf bottle Cliff had stored away long ago; the nipple that was with it was a sheep nipple, but it worked fine. Once the baby found out he was getting some good stuff for his efforts, he was ready to suck!

Funny thing here: While I was milking, Bonnie turned her head around and sniffed me, then sniffed at the bucket with milk in it, and it was like a light bulb turned on in her head. It's as though she thought, "Oh, so that's what those four hangy-down things on me are for!"

So with the bottle empty and the calf looking for more, this time when I directed him to the source, his mother cooperated.

This morning, all I had to do was intervene and help Baby find the back teats, because he had emptied the front ones and wanted more.

There is a slightly bitter-sweet post-script to this story that I'll be giving you next.


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

I'm so glad they finally made connections...bittersweet ???

Hollie said...

Wow, I'm wore out & I know you were too. I'm so glad that things seem to be working out for them both.

Lindie said...

Love happy endings!

madcobug said...

So glad that you all saved that calf. It was hard going but will be well worth it. I once hawled a Jersey calf in a wheel barrow a long way to it's mama. Helen

Becky said...

Wow cows sound dumb. ;) But I am happy to be catching up with your adventures!