The Caliche Times Vol   1, No 5    10/24/98


Debbie and the Baby Calf

Life is tough sometimes even for baby calves.   A couple of days ago, early in the morning as I looked through a cold and misty rain across to a pasture nearly mile away, I could see a baby calf all hunkered up and freezing cold. It had the look of a new born calf no question about it and born in weather that somehow Mother Nature provides for new born calves.  I had a sudden reason to be concerned because as I came closer I realized that all of the cows were coming up to the calf and checking to see how it smelled.  If it didn’t smell just right you would see them walk away and go on about their business. This is a danger sign that says to the rancher that these cows have heard this calf bellow and are coming to pay their respects and see if they know this calf.  They walk off leaving no cow standing by the baby indicating that no one claims the baby.

No One Wants This Baby

When I arrive all the cows have passed their judgment that the calf is not theirs. The calf continues to bellow and stagger around with navel cord dragging the ground.  It is wet and cold and a new born crying for mama and it continues to cry that pitiful cry of hunger. One hour later I have completed checking the herd and haven’t been able to determine the real mother cow. I have tried giving the calf to a cow that pulled up in a plum thicket with a tiny fresh new calf not too far from where the abandoned calf was born. Yeah, the cows will show you where an abandoned calf is born. They are very concerned about the smell of blood and their actions will always show you the location. The good mother cow will always have her calf in an isolated area and stay there to give her and her calf some bonding time; but in the case of the first time heifer she may drop a calf in the middle of the herd and never know the calf is hers. She just knows there was an event and says, "whew, that was tough" and walks away without cleaning up the area.

Severe Head Butts Send a Message

Well, poor little calf was sleeping pretty good by now because I had loaded her in the front of the pickup in the floorboard and covered her with some old rugs and soft carpets I had at the barn.  Turned the heater on a few minutes and warmed her up and she was real comfortable but tired from the ride around the pasture. She was a little scared too, and so was I because this calf had to get Mother’s milk during 3-4 hours after birth and time is fast getting away from us. The little calf was scared because I had placed her in the plum thicket with the cow that had the new baby. I was thinking that if this calf happened to be one of a set of twins then she might claim it. The calf began to talk to the cow and stagger though the bushes of the thicket. Suddenly the cow rushed and gave the baby several severe head butts to let it know it couldn’t have her milk. The calf immediately hit the ground expressing sorrow for its mistake and trying to become invisible in the wet grass. I had to crawl into the wet thicket and rescue the baby by dragging it out of the thicket by its hind legs and load it back into the pickup again. Our time was fast slipping away.  I wasn’t sure of the time of birth and the vet’s office was about 30 minutes away. I had already checked to see if I had a nursing bottle and colostrum but couldn’t find either one.

Calf Demonstrated She Could do Her Part

By the time we had made a few miles down the road to see the doctor, the calf showed me how healthy she was by leaving me a generous stool load on the carpet of the floorboard of the pickup. I checked for traffic both ways on our county road and found none which should surprise no one.*

First Milk

Well, not seeing anyone on the road I quickly removed the unwanted stuff and proceeded on down to the vet. Shelly (the receptionist) was glad to see me but said that I should have called first because both vets were occupied in surgery at the time. I told her the calf was wet and hungry and I didn’t know if it had had its "first milk" and it had been about 2 hours since I found the calf. I exaggerated some because the calf was now dry and warm in the pickup. While I was trying to think of a good reason I didn’t call before coming to the office, I saw the concern begin to rise up in Shelly's eyes and she disappeared into the surgery room. Shortly she returned and said "One of the vets will be with you soon." I knew they would because both these vets know my cows almost on a first name basis. Soon she said, "You can go on back where they are now." They invite me back into the room where a small dog is asleep on the surgery table. The tiny dog is lying upside down in an angle iron trough with the smell of iodine and medications heavy in the air. So I inquired about this dog’s problem. Paul (the vet) said," This dog has two problems we are correcting, first she is a female and second she is riddled with hernias" and demonstrated as he pressed on her little belly. "Yep", I said as I saw the problems. Some folks will do most anything to help their pets.

Black Baby Just a Little Brown and Dirty

Walker (the other vet) looked like he had been up all night working with cattle but asked if he could help me. I told him about the baby calf. He spoke to a lady assistant named Debbie and we went to see my baby. I had asked Walker if he remembered the name of the person that liked to buy baby calves and put them on his overly endowed cows. Walker couldn’t think of the person right then but did recall that his employee did have experience in that area and had earlier mentioned wanting to get a calf to feed. Debbie walked up about that time and he asked her if she still wanted a baby calf to feed. Debbie hesitated and then asked about the background of the calf and I told her he was black Brangus even though it looked a little brown and dirty. She considered it for a while and made a few concerned remarks about how she would be getting herself into a feeding schedule and her whole life would be changed by taking this calf. I knew she was hooked though as soon as she saw the look in the eyes of that baby calf. We agreed on a price and carried the calf inside where I left it in a nest of fresh soft hay with hay bales around it and told it bye. It bellowed just a little as it saw Debbie. I knew it was about to get its first dinner and would be in good hands with Debbie.

Doggone Coyotes Ate all the Rabbits

*You know, we can hear a pickup coming down our road for quite a distance away. Sinbad always knows it first and stands and looks in the direction of the traffic to let us know. Then Lou Jane or I see Sinbad looking and we look also to see who might be coming down this country road. On a good day we can listen to the noise of the pickup and estimate the speed and know who it is without having to go outside if we don’t recognize the pickup of the rancher whose place joins us on the East, then we think "Why would anyone else want to come down this road?"  

Sinbad Tells it Like it is

You knew that Sinbad the cow dog would somehow get into this story because he hardly ever misses. You can ask him why he chases cats and he will always tell you he does it because the coyotes have eaten all the rabbits that were his favorites to chase. {I guess one excuse is as good as another} Sinbad pretty much tells it like it is.

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