Another Sunday morning calf was had this week. Second and last of the season. Again, a steer who couldn’t have been here for very long before we got out to the barn. He was still wet and Lucy was cleaning him off. He is even smaller than Gus, which would make sense. Lucy is full Dexter and was bread with an Angus, giving a calf that was roughly 35-40 pounds. Louise (Wheezy) is half Dexter and half Angus, baby Gus (3/4 Angus, ¼ Dexter) was 45-50 pounds give or take a few. I’m glad they were both steers; meat in the freezer. We would really like to expand the herd by another heifer or two, but they need to be Dexters. The more Angus in the cow, the more pasture they need and more hay for the winter. Not to mention, the Dexter temperament is usually on the less aggressive side. I still would rather they walk beside me rather than behind me but even more so with an Angus. Next year, hopefully the calves will be heifers, from our bull; 100% Dexter. All that aside, Lucy’s calf arrived and we missed church.
Because the calf (who I have yet to name) was so new I didn’t stand around for too long to make sure he ate while we were out there. Instead we watched for a while and went back to the house to get ready for the day. We had a busy Sunday planned, the usual day of “the rest” and started right in. We got our “town” errand done and were home by noon, much later than usual but that’s the way it goes. Once home we checked on the calf and Lucy and went about our work. It wasn’t too long after that we realized neither of us has seen the calf eat all day. Lucy looked like she was going to burst.
She was making a good effort to get the calf to eat. She would get him standing, all lined up and in position to eat, giving him a few nudges in the right direction and he was not interested. Not even a little. He just turned his head and walked away to his favorite patch of straw and laid back down. Lucy has had more calves than we have been a part of, this is our third and her fifth or so, I don’t have the records in front of me. Either way, we still don’t know how to fix most special situations when it comes to calving. I called my uncle and explained what was going on.
“Any advice on what we should do?”
He said we should bottle feed colostrum as soon as possible and that will sometimes get them going. “Don’t bottle feed for too long or you will end up with a bottle calf.” (I would take on a bottle calf if it were a heifer that I planned to milk, but a steer for the freezer, well, only if necessary and not on purpose.) He dropped everything he was doing and got the calf bottle and extra colostrum they had together for me. I’m so thankful he had some on hand! I was on my way in no time.
Once home again, I mixed the biggest bottle I’ve ever made, and the little miss and I headed to the barn. Now for the tricky part… getting the calf out of the pen without mama getting mad. While Mike untied an overlap in the cattle panels, I opened the gate to the chicken run for the kids. Sounds horrible I know, but in all honesty that has been the new favorite for them. The little boy laughs as he chases the chickens trying to pet one or feed them grass. The little miss, well, crawling in and out of the chicken door is her favorite. It’s probably not recommended but they are in sight, safe from the cows in the event one gets out, and having a ball (and bathed as soon as they are done). With the kids safe and a small space in the fence, Mike was able to squeeze in and grab the calf while Lucy was slightly distracted with a little cracked corn.
Have you ever bottle fed a calf? I hadn’t. I had no experience feeding a calf and this calf had no experience eating. Talk about blind leading the blind. With Mike keeping the calf in place, close to the fence (he kept trying to back up), mama on the other side watching very closely, I did what I could to get that calf to take a bottle. It was a slow process, I found it worked best to hold his chin with one hand and open his mouth a bit with my fingers while weaseling the bottle in with the other. We kinda got the hang of it. It was messy and sticky but once we figured it out as best we could the kids were over to “help”. Both were excited to pet the little guy and the little boy was so happy he got to feed the calf.
That evening it looked like he was eating, not as much as I think he should have been, but eating none-the-less. The next day, he was more active, not running sprints like Gus, but up and around and eating. He’s making progress and that’s what matters.