We finally got the last of the ear tags put into this years calves. Eleven of them had been without the bright yellow ID tags and now every calf has a way to be identified.
By watching which tagged calf is nursing, we can match up the correct mother to the correct baby. Since I don’t seem to be able to remember a number from the field to the house, I have to make sure that I carry my phone or a note pad when I go out by the herd and make notes.
This task will take several weeks to accomplish. You know the old saying, you can lead a calf to the mother but you can’t make him drink. Or something along those lines.
The twins, Front and Back are now 2 weeks old. #7 had gotten so confused when she had two babies instead of one and kept pushing Back away from her when he wanted to nurse.
After a week of keeping the trio penned together to help forge a bond, we had to take more drastic measures since she was still not accepting Back unless I was in the pen to remind her that he should nurse.
The split pens kept both boys away from #7 for 4-6 hours at a time. Front was very resourceful, and would reach between the bars of the gates to sneak a snack while we had #7 locked on the other side. #7 was careful not to let Back nurse the way she was letting Front do.
Next, we set up a buffer pen between #7 and her boys so both were kept away from her milk supply and the boys were then forced to eat at the same time.
It took a full week, and I was just about to give up on the hope that #7 would take both babies when she decided that as long as Front was eating, Back could join in on the meal!
#7 stands so patiently, just chewing her cud as if to say she planned this all along.
Although the trio are not quite ready to be moved into the general population of the herd, this is a tremendous step forward after a long two weeks of supervision.
The little family will have more outdoor time and larger pastures as long as the milk supply is cooperating with mealtimes!
Last year I had a post about Milk Stupid, relating the funny aspects of nursing for newborn calves. https://mrssusanschmidlin.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/ milk-stupid .
With twins, that dopey, full-tummy, all-worn-out-from-nursing-look is multiplied. Although I have been trying to capture the boys with their black faces all slathered with cream, their tongues lolling out of the heads, and eyes all dreamy looking, it just doesn’t transfer well to photos. It is a very messy process for the calves and the mother. But rest assured that they are getting their fill of milk and have even taken a few drinks out of the water bucket and some nibbles of hay between feedings.
After the twins are satiated, they are receptive to visitors in the pen and welcome rub-downs and ear scratches. The ‘dopey-ness’ slows down their urges to run and scamper about. They become very cuddly before realizing that they are too tired to even stand around to be petted and bed down for a nap.
Front and Back are growing nicely, but still #7 is favoring Front and if left alone, will push Back away from eating. Time is running out for the cow to decide if she will care for Back since we will not be able to segregate them from the rest of the cow/calf pairs for much longer. Time is running out for this mother and her twins, the decision will need to be made soon so the trio can get out of the barn and into the wide open pastures where they do best.
I just love watching the young calves. The exuberance of the babies multiplies with each addition to the herd. The calves bunch up and make friends with other newbies while they explore their world, but there are still times when they aren’t in a playing mood and then they become real serious about the business of eating.
It is a well known fact that nursing is hard work for babies. Their body temperature can raise up two degrees just from the effort they spend getting milk from the momma cow.
Watching a calf put every bit of energy into filling their belly, is an enjoyable pastime. When we show animals away from the farm at events and fairs, the nursing baby always draws a crowd.
A month old calf that understands all the ins and outs of nursing, will latch onto its mother and will run patterns around all four teats, making sure to get every last drop, and then nurse a little more just for good measure. The meal can take a mere ten minutes or last longer than twenty, depending on the calf and if the mother agrees.
By the time the calves are done eating, they are breathing heavy, they are warm from the milk inside them and by the exertion, and they have milk residue smeared all over their face. They usually have their tongue lolling out a bit. It is obvious that they are sated. I refer to these babies as milk stupid. They just stand there with what looks like a dopey smile, while their bodies cool down.
This residue shows up clearly on Black Angus. The white milk is sticky enough to plaster the hair on their face into whorls and curls, soon to be licked clean by the momma.
It was between showers, when I was feeding the animals in the show barn one morning. The three calves had been huddled along the cement wall of the barn, simply enjoying the sunshine.
When the calves saw that the manger was full of hay, two of them got up and headed over for breakfast. This lazy calf was too drowsy to bother. She stayed sprawled out with her head resting on the bottom metal rung of the gate taking in all the warming sun she could.
Don’t worry, she finally woke up enough to mosey over for some hay before the rest of the critters cleaned it all up, and she was able to nurse right after that.
We could see Blush about 200 feet from the rest of the cows off to herself. It was obvious she was in labor.
Little Maroon was born in the back of the big nursery field just as we were feeding the rest of the cows and babies. As we got closer we could see the minute-old calf struggling to stand. We gave Blush a slab of hay to eat.
She was very hungry from all the birthing business and took time to eat her fill while Maroon stood and flopped countless times around her until finally getting his feet to cooperate enough for forward movement. He was hungry after all that birthing business also and took right to eating.
From birth to standing and nursing, all in about 15 minutes.
Now for those serious country people that spend their summers hauling livestock, and showing at the fairs, our small attempt at showing a few cows at a couple of fairs could be laughable. That is perfectly OK with me. Continue reading