When I was searching a name for my blog, Trials of Farm Life came to mind because there are a lot of trials. Whether it is fighting water problems in the middle of winter or a piece of machinery broke down at an inopportune time or the loss of a seemingly healthy calf. We had only had two calves so far, a little heifer was born last week and we put her and her mother in the lean to yard with the first calf. She was a quiet baby but they are much like children, some are more rambunctious than others.
We went to the farm this morning to find her mother standing at the gate bawling and bawling, that is never a good sign. The calf was stretched out on her side in the lean to, dead, it was such a shock, just yesterday both calves were out enjoying the sun. We will never know, she might have had a birth defect, possibly she was injured by one of the cows, we could have her posted at the vets but she will still be dead and then we would have a vet bill on top of it.
It's heart wrenching to listen to her mother, they do mourn the loss of their baby, but, unlike human parents who will carry the loss of their child for the rest of their life, in a few days she will forget and go about her business. The loss of a calf is hard for my farmer, he has a lot invested in her financially and, even though our cattle are not pets, emotionally. These animals are completely dependent on us and Bruce works hard to care for his cows the best he can. She is such a nice heifer that Bruce won't sell her, some producers cull the cows who lose a calf because it's a big expense to feed them for another year before they will produce again. Last year we were two over 100%, with two sets of twins, that is an exception and it's especially depressing to lose a calf this early when we have so few. Bruce's father, Leo, used to tell him, "You can't raise them all," and, unfortunately, that is usually true.
Several years ago we had heifers and were making lots of night checks. #29 was the first one to calve, she had trouble and her baby was born dead. She was quite distraught. The next day #28 was in labor and having trouble so Bruce pulled her calf. This calf was quite large, #28 was not so big and it was hard on her, she wanted nothing to do with that calf.
#29 said, "Well, if you don't want her, I'll take her." She scrubbed her clean with her raspy tongue, Bruce gave the calf a bottle of colostrum and let #29 take over. She loved that little girl and all was well, until......
the next day #28 had some time to think about it and said, "Well, you know she is MY baby." #29 did not take offense and was very willing to share custody of the little black calf. They both mothered her, when she was nursing from one cow, the other stood by and washed her. She was the best fed, best cared for, most loved baby in the lot and all was well, until.....
Bruce took some heifers and a bull to pasture in Meriden and sent #29 along with them so she would have an early calf the next year. #29 was not happy, she wanted her baby! On my way home from work, I'd stop by to see if everyone was doing well and she would come to the fence and express her displeasure at the situation.
The next year #29 had the first baby of the year and all was well again in her world.