I noted in a previous entry that Grace-the-Cow accepted her new babies the first time I put them with her to nurse, and that is the truth. However, there were a couple of minor bumps in the road that I should explain.
First of all, one of those original three calves she has raised up to the age of five months was her own heifer calf. While she seemed to love all her children equally, licking them and accepting them totally, she never forgot which one she gave birth to, and once I took those calves away from their twice-daily dose of mother's milk, it was Gypsy she worried and stewed about.
Ideally, we would have those weaned calves on the back forty somewhere so they couldn't even make eye contact with Grace. Unfortunately, we don't have a back forty. There's no place to put the calves where they have a supply of water and hay that they can't see and bawl at Grace.
Other than an occasional, half-hearted kick, Grace never attempted to hurt her new babies; she just didn't care about them one way or the other. The first couple of nights when I put her with Hope and Henry in the small lot, after her bite of feed was gone she would walk all over the lot mooing at Gypsy across the fences, walking up and down, back and forth... with two new babies who weren't even sure which end of the cow had an udder frantically trying to follow the milk supply but losing it each time Grace walked away. It was time for Plan "B".
I put Grace in the stanchion in the barn where I milk and locked her in with a bite of sweet feed and a flake of hay to keep her busy. I baited the new babies into the barn, directed them to the milk supply, and watched as they nursed. Grace finished her sweet feed and tugged at the stanchion, found out she couldn't leave, and started munching her hay. The most difficult part of this, for an old lady, was getting the calves off the teats and out of the barn. Thank goodness they weren't Holsteins; if they had been, I would have had to enlist help from Cliff or the grandson. I would wrestle the tiny heifer to the door, open it with one hand, and shove her out with the other hand and my knees, shutting the door behind her. Then I'd work on her bigger brother, getting him out the door while she was trying to get back in. It was a real rodeo!
After having the calves nurse in the barn three times straight, I noticed Grace wasn't as concerned about her half-grown daughter's close proximity, and that Gypsy wasn't bawling after her mom as much when she saw her. So I went back to plan "A", turning her in the lot with the calves; this time it went great, and it looks like we have another successful calf-raising operation going on.
The one thing I'm concerned about is whether Grace's calf, Gypsy, will ever be totally weaned. There will come a time when they will have to be in the same pasture. I just hope the temptation isn't too great for Gypsy. It's amazing what a long memory some calves have when it comes to nursing. I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
On another note, that midget bull must have finally managed to impregnate Grace. She hasn't shown any signs of heat for six weeks.