Driving clear into town for a jug of milk was more effort than I was willing to put in on an already busy weekend. After all, we have a milk cow sitting out here in the corrals. Why not make use of her?
Not that she isn’t already working hard raising a couple calves.
Women are well capable of multi tasking. So I separated the calves for the day. She enjoyed a break from the kids, hanging out and eating in peace and quite. They may have called for her a little as the day went on but she never even came back to the gate to check on them.
That evening I went out to milk her. She came running and didn’t lift her head from her grain even though she hadn’t been milked since spring.
My husband, dutiful but reluctant, came along and gagged in disgust after he mentioned how foamy the fresh milk was and I drug a finger through it, licking the foam off enthusiastically.
Back inside the kids were excited about fresh milk and worked together to make absolutely delicious caramel with the milk striaght from their cow.
The next morning I got the bowl of milk out and set it on the table for breakfast. Ladling it over the cereal was easier than finding a pitcher. Yummy. Milk fresh from the cow!
How could I expect those same poor children to actually ingest milk that didn’t come from a grocery store out of a jug! A reminder that this was the same milk they made caramel from the night before didn’t help anything. That was ‘different’.
Being hungry enough to force down cereal covered in fresh milk didn’t mean they were hungry enough to enjoy it. There they sat all through the meal. Faces turned down in looks of total revulsion. The cereal was eaten if not cleaned up completely.
They walked out the door to school ordering me not to eat the rest of the caramel while they were gone. The double standards are amazing.
It was just a few calves. Surely we could do it ourselves.
The new bottle calves needed their vaccines. One had been sick since we got him. With care he was feeling better but now a second one was breathing hard. It’s hot and dry out.Nothing is enjoying this weather. Better to prevent any more sick as soon as possible to give the calves the best chance.
In the morning after feeding, while the skies were still over cast, the humidity stifling but the heat not awful yet, we ran the calves into the barn.
The children helped get them in with a combination of luring and pushing, mixed with lots of randomly wandering off in circles or the opposite direction away from calve and shed. In the end we corralled them. They went happily into the alley way and we got to work.
There were spider webs. They strongly dampened one child’s desire to help push calves up the alley into the chute. She said she’d help me up front instead. That was fine, she could give the nasal shot. The prospect of that nearly sent her back down the spider web infested alley. In the end she decided she could handle filling the vaccine guns.
My son didn’t mind spider webs. He was gungho to get those calves up the chute.
He pushed calves. We gave the shots. It was all going very well. He needed a little help once in awhile. The calves were very young and also very quiet. They often didn’t feel the need to move. No problem, I could help out a bit.
As we worked one calf over he wandered out to look at the calves in the pen we were letting them out to. Quickly he returned with wonderful news. I hadn’t made sure all the gates were shut before letting the calves out that way! Oh joy. Only two of the previously worked calves were where they were supposed to be. Luckily one more was only partially out. In the wrong pen, not clear out into the yard. He shut the gates. We continued with the remaining calves.
I pushed the last of the calves into the chute. They were the smallest and wanted to plant front feet which worked very well to hold the firmly in place. My daughter was persuaded to give the final nasal dose. We were done. Now time to worry about those wandering calves.
Just then my son popped his head in. He had gotten them! He informed us happily. I admit to having some doubt and went to count heads for myself. Sure enough. All the calves were there. He had gotten them in all by himself.
Calves got worked and will hopefully stay healthy. That is the least of the days accomplishments. The children got worked and learned some important life lessons. They accomplished a job, a real adult type of job. They each performed a task that they didn’t think they could do, preparing medication and getting calves in. They were out there doing it. Even if working with cattle isn’t something they decide to do for the rest of their lives, these accomplishments are a foundation upon which self sufficiency and confidence are built. Whatever the job that needs done, they are capable of doing it. If they just try.
The Goblin Child was playing with one of the calves when I got there. Laughing and giggling as her fingers got sucked on, she was as happy as the kids always are to play with calves. Once I finally forced the children out there.
We laughed and talked about how cute and gross the calves are for a bit. Then I looked at the rest of them. My count came up short one. A second and third count showed the same. With two gates to get through to get out of the barn it didn’t seem possible. We searched the barn. Then counted again. Still one short.
Outside I sent the kids to walk through the tree row while I drove a 4wheeler to look across the big open fields. Maybe he had just gotten out and would be visible as he ran across one.
I knew exactly which calf it was. They had all gotten ear tags the night before. We had named this one Styx. This morning he had refused a bottle. His voice was hoarse from calling for his mom. Not being able to raise him didn’t mean she hadn’t been a good mom, while she did have him. He wanted her back. Of all the calves he was the one who wasn’t beginning to recognize us as the food source and a good thing.
I was positive he was long gone. Running the way scared calves do, blindly and full out.
It made me sick. I knew it was all my fault, no blaming the kids on this one. After feeding I had carried the feeder out of the barn, then gotten caught up in other things. I was the one who hadn’t remembered to carefully lock both the gates.
We searched all morning. I spent the time asking God to take care of of the poor little calf. Whether that meant us finding him or him finding a herd of cows. He didn’t deserve this. Then we had to leave, go to town. Hurrying home we searched the rest of the afternoon. Not that we had any chance of seeing him if he was laying in the yard. A small black calf in a shaded spot would be as invisible as nature intended them to be. Hidden from us as well as predators. In cooler weather a calf can hide for a couple of days and live.
In this heat, without having had breakfast for sure, maybe no supper the night before, he had little hope. Laying in shade, maybe. If he had taken off running, not a chance. Maybe Styx was a bad name choice.
That evening we took milk out to the remaining calves. Finally accepting the smaller number, we mixed enough milk for what was left. They slurped happily at their milk. The children squealed and giggled as calves chased them around wanting a bottle. The ruckus was loud and enthusiastic. Then I had to step out the barn door for some reason.
Out the door I happened to glance up, and there was a calf in the middle of the drive!
It took a bit of looking to realize it was indeed a calf. Then my beleaguered brain had to spend some time trying to figure out how another one of the calves from the barn could have gotten outside. It was a few moments before I realized this was our missing calf!
All day while we drove all over, while we walked through the trees, while we had to have walked right past him a few times, he had been laying there. Perfectly still he blended and stayed invisible, just like calves are supposed to do. It must have been the sound of the other calves getting their meal that drew him out of hiding.
He was curious, but not brave enough to come up to me.
I yelled for a child to come help. Then sent him around behind the calf, to help push him towards me. We herded the calf towards the door to the barn. The calf shot out the side. We cornered him against a gate. My soon opened the gate. I tried to push the calf through.
The calf couldn’t resist the bottle any longer. He latched on and was not letting go.
We lead him back into the barn to join the others. His reluctance to eat from the bottle was gone. He was starving. The bottle got handed to a child while I ran into the house for more milk. Our prodigal son had returned.
The kids and I swung by the pasture to check the tank on our way to town. We only had a few minutes because, as usual, we were running later than I had hoped and we didn’t want to be late for an eye doctor appointment! As we got the salt put out I looked at the cows grazing in the not to far distance and thought I saw too many hanger downers 😉
There were two of the bulls. But a couple other cattle standing next to them also had the tuft of fur under the belly. That didn’t seem right.
I checked my watched, contemplated the length of the drive we still had and decided there was enough time to walk over to the bunch. Once I got over there there were way to many cattle with hanger downers. Yearling steers. Yay. That meant the neighbor had cattle out. I would need to get a hold of someone. But first we had to get to our appointment. We were going to be late.
In town I texted around and got numbers for the suspected owners. Called one, the father, and left a message. Then got the number of the son and texted.
The son answered immediately. The response made me so made I had to sit and think a bit before responding. Always best not to text mad 😉
He said “Probably ours, went around fence, but your half was not great. We fixed it up some, but needs a lot of posts. We are out of town until tomorrow but will get it then. ”
Now I’ve dealt with these people before. I’ve been out there fixing fence on miserably hot days because they told my husbands father the same thing and he said oh ok, or some such. Then ordered us out to fix fence for the neighbors. Knowing what they are like I was extra careful when I went over that fence line. I wasn’t having it. I informed him the fence had been fine thank you. Very politely of course. He didn’t respond.
The father called me back as we went through walmart. He was very polite, until he started in on it too. Figured out who I was and which of their pastures I was talking about, which took awhile. Then said they’d get to it once they got back from vacation. But, you know, that fence isn’t very good between us. I wasn’t having it. I was already pretty grouchy after talking to the son. My children had chosen that moment to start a brawl in the aisle. I grabbed handfuls of what ever I could get, hair, and yanked them apart. Giving them my best knock it off or I will beat you look I sent them cowering apart. Then smiled, because it can be heard in your voice and told him, nope, the fence was good, I walked it and have been checking it. We chatted a bit more and he started in again!
You know, your fence between us….
Nope! If he wanted to repeat himself I could repeat myself. I thought a moment about the absurdity of it then decided I could do it as many times as he could. And we did. There in the middle of walmart with a smile fixed on my face, sobbing pouting children and people trying to get to the chips behind me. I held my ground and refused any reply except to restate that the fence was in great shape. Yealings can be hard to keep in, no one is mad at them but it was not the fences fault.
Seriously! Accept blame. Be polite, apologize for your cattle, and promise to come get them. I’ve been on that end of things before. It happens. Refusing to accept any responsibility is the behavior of a child. Grown men should know better.
The kids and I went over and took lunch to their father in the field where he was working summer fallow. Then we started driving the fence line.
There were way more than the few head I had seen earlier. It was really beginning to look like there were way more yearlings than pairs! A handful of them were in the summer fallow. They had torn the fence down between it and the pasture. We put it up and, after careful consideration, I texted the son again. Let him know that we had a bunch more than originally thought and some didn’t have water.
He texted back that they’d be there this evening. Then started insisting that I didn’t need to be there to help with the sorting!
The more he insisted that I not come the more determined I was that I was going to be there. The way they had acted so far didn’t lead me to believe they would treat the cattle decently or sort thoroughly. I wanted to make sure my cows didn’t disappear or get run hard.
The kids and I loaded up the 4wheelers. There’s plenty of barb wire laying around I wouldn’t want to risk any horse’s legs.
We got there. Drove over and picked up my husband from the summer fallow. By the time we got back they were there. All two of them. They had been determined that two guys were going to sort fifty plus yearling out of the pairs by themselves? I had even been assured, in one of the many texts telling me not to come, that it would only take them a few minutes. They had high opinions of themselves. Or hadn’t believed me about the number of steers.
They took over issuing orders. Their yearlings, so fine. We sorted and pushed and sorted some more. It was actually going rather well. We were able to leave cows and calves behind as the herd walked towards the gate.
Then everything balled up and the easy sorting was done. Working hard we got a few more out. My son put in a good days work, real work not kid stuff, pushing cows we got out back to that herd and holding them there. Someday his kids will be as fascinated and horrified by his tales of life growing up on the farm as we are when my grandpa talked about driving the team farming by himself when he was five. If he was as dedicated and hard working as this boy I can see how he would have easily done the job. My husband worked the cattle on foot. My daughter and I ran around doing a bit of everything. Hopefully helpfully 😉 Daisy dog clung to the back of the fourwheeler.
With a few head left in the bunch it was decided that it would be easier to pull a couple of cows back out of their pasture than to sort where we were and the whole bunch was sent through the gate.
There they all took off at a hard run. The three of us took off after them. my husband had rejoined our son and were busy keeping cows in the pasture I think. I don’t know. We never looked back. Despite my determination not to let them run our cows hard there wasn’t much else to do at the moment but to keep up. We caught them before the draw and each took a cow. Either the guys did a better job chasing them, or they had easier cows. They got theirs back while we fought with ours
I think a 4wheeler should work cows like a horse. Stop and turn on a dime after them. Daisy was having a hard time holding on. My daughter was giggling hysterically with an arm around me and the other holding tight to Daisy. Back and fourth we cut that cow until she quite fighting and, somewhat, quietly went back to her pasture.
With that part done I begged my daughter to please take Daisy back to the pickup. This was hard on her and there was nothing she’d be able to help with. They got dropped off as close as possible to the pickup and they walked back with plenty of water holes and trees to play in along the way. Then we, my trusty green mount and I were back in the fray.
We had sorted part of the herd, but there were plenty more to work through. It took a couple of hours and lots of wear and tear on the 4wheelers but we did finally get all of the yearling steers out. The grass, which had looked good went from having another week or so of grazing to needing the cows moved soon. The cows were run hard. I can only imagine how hard they would have been run without us there. I pulled the father aside one time and told him to take it easy. I didn’t want the cows pushed that hard or to lose any calves. Not sure he actually herd me. Or listened. I had worked hard to avoid screaming when one of them took off after my old 524 cow. She’s the second oldest in my herd and a dang good cow. If they hadn’t backed off before I could react, well, I do seem to be a bit grouchy lately, I think I’d be willing to take a grown man 😉
There were yearlings coming back to the fence already as we finished and paused to talk a bit. Fortunately they didn’t say any more about how their cows being in our pasture was my fault. Of course they didn’t acknowledge me at all, only deigning to speak to my husband. Probably for the best. He has better control over his temper than I do.
They went down the fence line to chase their yearlings the other way. Their only concession to the trouble their calves had caused when the father said they’d be taking three or so of them back with them to a different pasture because they were high headed trouble causers. On his way to get the steer who was waiting right back where they had taken the whole fence down, he stopped and very self righteously put a staple in our fence. He had claimed it to be weak, falling down, and generally bad, guess he had to find something wrong with it. I hope that one staple made him feel better.
Do you really need to ask what they are being tested for? Things need to work. If they don’t work the bulls can’t work. Getting things tested every spring is the best way to be sure you end up with bred cows.
The bulls were in already when I got out there. I had kids to get up and going, breakfast to eat, a husband to see out the door. Things to do first. So they were already up here and causing trouble when I got out.
A bull is usually a basically nice creature. Big, calm, and slow moving. Usually.
A bunch of bulls are dangerous creatures who move too fast to get away from easily and happily destroy whole fence lines without even noticing they were in the way.
Now this bunch of bulls was in the corrals behind the house, waiting to be loaded, together, onto the trailer, happily fighting and trying to destroy anything they got near. Having run together all winter in no way meant they had any pecking orders settled and were ready to get along.
They were not all going into any trailers together.
With care and caution the two yearling bulls and one big quiet bull were separated and put into the bottom of the semi trailer. One big aggressive bull, we called him cauliflower ears for ease of recognition, was sorted out and put by himself to load on the horse trailer next. Space between these guys might save the trailers from being destroyed.
I went to bring the trailer down. As I backed to the chute I saw a bull behind me. One of those things your eyes see but your brain can’t quite process. The screaming and arm waving, at the bull, not me, done by my father in law finally got through and I jumped out to help get him back in a corral.
I still couldn’t process how he had gotten out. Until the father in law grumbled something about being followed out a gate he left open behind him when he went through.
Back to sorting.
Staying out of the way as two bulls crash into each other and plow about in the tight confines of the corrals is always fun. We got a couple more out. One for each compartment on the top of the semi trailer, one for the back, and two on the horse trailer. One compartment each.
Unloading at the vet clinic they asked, with some slight mockery, did we haul each bull separately?!?! Yes, yes we did. We like our trailers thank you very much.
I ended up crawling inside the bottom of the semi, trying to convince the bulls they needed to come out. It’s a bit short and they rub their backs getting in and out. They did not want out. Those three bulls were so nice and quiet. It was good to have some that way.
After finally getting everything off the trailer. I was struggling with a gate latch. Hearing a commotion I looked up. The vet tech was running past me, as fast and hard as she could. Right in front of my nose, on the other side of a panel. A foot behind her, no exaggeration, was one of the bulls running as hard as he could. Directly behind him was a second bull. Apparently the tougher of the two. He was going to get that first bull. The first bull was going to smash the vet tech simple because she was in front of him as he escaped.
Luckily she escaped. Jumped over the panel at the end of the lane. nearly cleared it flat footed. The bulls apparently stopped then. The fence didn’t come down because they didn’t crash into it. I was too busy trying to breath again to remember what happened except that no one died.
No one made fun of us for hauling all the bulls separately again either. A separate pen was found for each individual bull. Apparently the vet was as fond of her facilities as we are of the trailers.
I’m just slightly excited about it. If you can’t tell. I’ve been wanting a milk cow forever. Either or both to milk and to help feed the bottle calves. Who wouldn’t want a milk cow? Even the kids keep wanting to milk her for us. Not to drink, but to make caramel from. That’s good stuff, I can’t say I blame them.
We might do it. It will need to be a weekend morning.
She’s a busy girl. She isn’t feeding five calves, but she is supplementing their feed a bit. And they love her for it. They still get their normal feeding of dry milk replacer. Then they get set loose with her to finish filling their bellies.
She is busy getting her belly filled too. She’s on the skinny side. We are shoveling as much food at her as she can take. All the corn she’ll eat. Which isn’t a whole lot actually. She’s been on sweetfeed and let me know that she would like her grain with some molasses please. So I grabbed the bottle from the kitchen and poured molasses over her corn until I can get sweetfeed for her. Gotta keep the girl happy. We’ll get weight back on her. Even with those pesky calves.
Directions for Ava for feeding the calves while we go to the esports state finals.
We will be leaving about noon on Thursday and will be back as early on Friday as possible. It will still probably be late. If it gets too late, could you feed them one more time?
I will have everything ready to go. All you’ll need to do is add water. There will be 2 buckets with milk in them. One bucket for each feeding. All they need is water. 5 bottles of water, per bucket, one bucket for each feeding. Hot water, as hot as it runs. There is a wooden spoon and a whisk on the counter to mix them with.
Then dump them in the big grey feeder.
There is a trough out there with corn. If it doesn’t have corn in it there’s a lick tub with corn in it in the barn. Go in the door by the chute. It doesn’t matter how much they get. I’m just trying to convince them to eat.
We are feeding a calf of Ray’s. It is in the pen in front of the barn with it’s mom. It gets a bottle in the bottle holder. You can hold the bottle if you want but it’s easier to feed that calf then the other calves. He will usually finish his bottle while you mess with the others. The feeder is hanging on the gate. It has a wire on it that helps hold it onto the fence, loop it under and then around the feeder.
His mom takes it pretty well. Might watch out for her just because different people. He will usually come running over. Wont drink if you try to force him. You can leave the bottle if he wont drink.
There was fog, haze and moisture in the air first thing, even dew. We haven’t seen that for ages. It was so sticky hot and humid that stepping outside was miserable.
Then the wind came up. It howl and ripped through the yard, even harder than it has been. Which says a lot because it’s been blowing. That night one strong gust ripped down tree branches and scattered kids toys out through the yard. Then the lightning started. The fear of fire makes any sleeping hard. Especially when you know they are burning out of control not too far away.
Finally managing to get to sleep we woke to snow!
A wonderful thing to see. The forecast predicted an inch. Maybe two. We had that already. The radar showed the storm circling. It was melting as fast as it came down and water was running every where. It was a wonderful thing to see. And the snow was still coming down.
We checked cows, luckily no calves. Some were huddled in good sheltered places. Some stood in the worst possible. Ghost’s brand new calf was laid against a fence, as dry as he could get, out of the never ceasing wind. The bottle calves were hesitant to cone out of their shed. They had never seen the white stuff before. They ate quickly, hungerly than ran back to safety.
The children forced outside to play and use up energy climbed snowbanks that drifted well over the fences.
This morning the snow had stopped. Sunshine and blue sky teased us that it might be warm, but the wind is still howling. After feeding and making sure everything was safe and healthy we went out for a drive. We had heard stories of stranded travelers and people staying with the neighbors until they could get their cars out of the ditch. We wanted to see for our selves.
The highway was nearly deserted. Still closed we heard as we parked in the middle of the road to talk. People had taken it upon themselves to move the barricades so they could get through but the roads were supposed to be closed. A semi blocked half of the road, not tipped on its side only by the grace of God. Most of the wheels were off the ground. A pickup buried way off the road. The car of a pair of college professors who couldn’t get home on the usual road so instead of staying where they were decided to try taking the long way. Instead they ended up in a ditch, walking through the storm to the nearest house. Luckily for them they were taken in, given a warm place to stay, then pulled out this morning. Maybe they should teach classes in not doing stupid things at the college?
In town buildings were opened to take in more stranded travelers. I don’t remember ever hearing about that? Maybe I just didn’t know in the past? Maybe more people were caught unaware with the forecast for an inch of snow and nearly ninety degree weather the day before.
We are not complain about the snow. It was wonderful! The most moisture we’ve seen for the last year. That’s all together, not at once. With this snow we might just have a little bit of grass. If nothing else the dust might not be blowing as bad for a few days. Hopefully this will be the start and rain will come again.
Yes, it would be easier to do it myself Heaven knows it would be faster. The waiting is hard. Watching as expensive milk replacer gets sloshed around and spilled or nearly spilled has me gasping and holding my breath. I can’t stand to watch. Teeth clinched my husband and I both stand back and watch. Or better yet don’t watch, as the children prepare the milk to feed their bottle calves.
After helping and instructing on how and how much milk to mix, the preparation and most of the feeding is their responsibility. We watch them go slowly and struggle. If we didn’t it would never be replaced by smoothness and skill. Strength will be built in the difficulties, not in taking care of it for them.
We don’t over face them and are always there to help if really needed. They don’t usually want help. Pride in the ability to do the job and do it well is already setting in. That doesn’t mean they don’t need harried to get to get to work. They’re still children. Nothing wrong with that. They’ll grow up soon enough. I’ll enjoy their childishness while they’re children.
They aren’t strong enough to do everything themselves. They’re building strength though! It wont be long and those hard jobs will be easy for them.
Bottle calves are a perfect opportunity for training children!
We went through a period of very quickly collecting bottle calves. I was worried about being able to get any. Then one showed up. By the next day, before I had the opportunity to spend much time worrying about him being alone, we ended up with a second. One more by the next weekend and two more before that week was over. Now we are at capacity and no more have turned up.
The kids are doing an amazing job at taking care of the feeding and go out regularly to play with them. 8 got to name the first three calves. All bull calves and soon to be steers. We have Sug, Elon, and Radio Active. The Goblin Child has claimed Sug as her own.
The Goblin Child named the last two, heifers. We have Iris, supposedly a Greek god of flowers and rainbows? And Athena. That god we know.