Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tales of a cow learning to be a mother

Jody wasn't quite sure what to do with her daughter the first twenty-four hours or so.  Sometimes she would let her baby nurse her, but other times she would kick her away from her udder... not terribly hard, but still.  She would spend ten minutes licking her pride and joy, then just wander off and leave her with the rest of the herd.  By yesterday, though, they had bonded well, and Jody wasn't letting the calf out of her sight.  The mother gene had kicked in full-blast.  
I was putting the finishing touches on dinner at noon when I thought I heard mooing.  "Is that a cow bawling?"  I asked Cliff, who didn't answer because he probably didn't hear me OR the calf.  
I didn't enjoy my dinner much.  I was picturing a calf in the canyon.  
Every cow we've had that misplaced a calf has come looking for me, even the Limousin  that didn't particularly like people.  They somehow know they need help from a higher power (that would be me) when the rubber meets the road.  
So once I finished eating, I put on my coat and went to Jody's aid.  The other cows were east of our house, down in a valley grazing.  I thought perhaps Jenny was curled up somewhere near them.  I called Jody and headed that way with her following at a distance.  There is only one ditch in that area, so after looking around where the cows were with no luck, I went there.  I did see a gray cat curled up on an old, discarded recliner, but no calf.  
Any time you are looking for a cow's calf, you must pay attention to the cow, because if she knows where it is, she will often look in that direction.  It's a dead giveaway.  Of course, Jody didn't seem to know where her baby was.  But wait...
She kept looking across the fence toward the big lot where the horses hang out.  I stopped, looked closely up and down the fence line, and sure enough spotted the baby all curled up in the sunlight.  All Jody needed to do was go west to the gate, turn back east, and she would have joined her calf, but she was looking for some way to get there in a straight line.  I never said she was the smartest cow on the place.  
So I called her by name and went through the gate with her following.  

 Do you see Jenny?  

From this vantage point, Jody couldn't see her, and at first refused to join me, but when Jenny stood up she came trotting to us.  

Finally, mother and daughter were reunited and Jody took her to join the herd.  

I saw a rather touching little cow drama this morning that I should have videoed.  The cows were gathered around the bale ring; Jody was laying down chewing her cud, Bonnie and the others were eating hay.  Baby Jenny got up and ran around the bale ring for awhile bucking and playing, and then approached the only udder in sight while her mother was laying down:  Bonnie's.  Obviously it was time for breakfast.  When she latched onto a teat I figured Bonnie would kick her to Kingdom Come, but she didn't.  She gently lifted a hind leg and pushed the baby back away from her udder.  Jenny made several attempts.  Each time, Bonnie very gently let her know she was barking up the wrong tree, once even turning around and pushing the calf softly away with her head.  I was amazed that she took such care not to hurt a calf that wasn't hers.    


Andrea said...

Oh Donna, how I love your blog entries & pictures!! We are a lot alike, even though I don't live on a farm. I can "read" some various wildlife by their actions & noises.

A mobile home on some acreage... my dream home!! :-) We live on a couple acres of woods but the house is way too big now. We added-on for my mom years ago but now that she's gone... well... we just don't need the space. With us getting older it's becoming harder & harder to maintain. Ah well... a solution will come to us by and by, I suspect.

Have a wonderful evening & a good start to your Wednesday.


small farm girl said...

You have some good momma cows there.

Helen said...

I love hearing those cow tales. Animals have more sense than we give them credit for. Bonnie is a good mom. Hopefully the others will learn from her.