It’s pretty amazing when you compare calves to human babies. Most calves are up on their wobbly legs and looking for their first meal within an hour after they are born. Once they get dried off and fill their bellies, they can stand an incredible amount of cold. And within a couple of days they are running and bucking and playing! Number 803 is an example of how tough a calf can be.
I first noticed the cow bawling on Friday, and she seemed to be looking for her calf. But there were calves lying here and there around the field, any one of them could have been hers, and she shut up as soon as I spread hay. Maybe she was just hungry.
On Saturday I noticed her again. She still seemed to be looking for a calf, and her bag was tight. All the calves in the field looked bright and healthy, and I made a quick tour around the perimeter of the field, thinking he might have crawled trough the fence. But I was in a hurry to get to a bull sale, and didn’t have time for a thorough search. Some cows are lazy, and will just stand in the middle of the field and bawl rather than go looking for their calves.
On Sunday the cow was still bawling. I looked up her number and discovered that she had calved up west before I made my first cut of heavies on Thursday. I recalled having cut one pair out with the heavies, but hadn’t seen them when I gathered the cut and took them up to the calving field. The calf must have been lying behind a rock when I brought the cows in and was left behind.
It had already been three days since that calf had sucked. I headed out ahorseback looking for him. I didn’t really expect to find a live calf, and was on the alert for an eagle or a bunch of magpies rising from his carcass. The country is steep, rocky, and brushy, with infinite hiding places - I found nothing. I cussed my lack of diligence in following up on the bawling cow. But I also cussed the cow that had simply stood there, bawling intermittently, rather than making an effort to get back to where she had last seen her baby.
The calves were coming pretty fast and I wanted to cut out more heavies. That outside bunch of cows was ranging over hundreds of acres with a mile of river bank, acres of brush, and thousands of rocks. Wolves could be expected to come through anytime, and it was a long way to bring in anything that was having trouble. On Tuesday I brought the herd in again to cut more heavies.
There were some 6 calves in the bunch that had been born up west before I started bringing them in for calving. As I sorted off heavies I noticed one calf that was being kicked off by another cow as he tried to sneak a suck. He was gaunt, and moved in that floppy, loose-jointed way of a starving calf. Number 803!
I threw him together with another cow and took him out the gate. I was careful this time to keep track of him as I took in this new bunch of heavies.
His mother met us at the gate, searching through the herd for sign of her baby. It was only seconds until they had a joyful reunion. The calf had only been three days old when he got separated, and for five days more days he had been on his own.
When I fed those cows later in the afternoon, #803 was standing next to her calf. She left him only long enough to eat, checking back constantly to be sure he was where she had left him. I doubt they will get separated again.