Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day . . . Bovine Style

It's Mother's Day - and in the spirit of something different, I'll give a window onto another kind of mothering. Tomorrow I marry into the Hanson family. This past week Rich and one of his brothers helped to relocate the rest of my worldly possessions, which are now mostly tucked away into one of three storage sheds. The Hanson farm raises beef cattle, and grows crops to feed them, and to sell. On the first full day here I got to witness the above calf being born. This was his mother's first calf, she at the time being called a 'heifer', and she is not completely full grown, so she had some difficulty bringing the baby into the world. Cletus, Rich's father, and one of his brothers, Al, had to assist by pulling the little calf into the world via chains looped around his hoofs. When we arrived two little hoofs were projecting out of the womb, and a little nose with a tongue stuck out. It was a struggle, but he survived. This all happened at dusk, and it is just as well that one of Rich's brothers noticed, as otherwise in the night both calf and cow may have been lost due to the difficult birth. The decision was made to isolate the two together, because the mother, who is now called a cow, was a bit spooked by the whole process, and she wasn't sniffing or licking her calf. She herself had been hand raised, as they do have another cow on the farm who produces and cares for very fine calves, but for some reason, her milk does not come down into her udders, so she can't feed them. They were left together in one of the isolation pens in the barn, and the mother cow was making mother moos (so the brothers tell me). The next morning the little calf was licked clean, dry, and was standing and nursing. The above calf is this year's hand fed baby. His mother is known as "The Twin". I don't know if it has gotten a name yet. Most of the cows that get names are usually the hand-fed ones. The cow with the plumbing problem in her udders has been producing calves for several years. He gets a milk solution out of a bucket twice a day . . . and he is at the gate, or comes quickly, when you arrive to feed him. I walked out into the pasture today while the brothers were doing morning feeding chores. Rich works on the weekends. There are some 30 cows, give or take. They time the season that they allow the bull in with the cows so the calves are born in the spring. The cows are kept in a nursery pasture right next to the house so they can be watched, as sometimes they need help delivering their calves. Once most of the calves are delivered, and as the hay supplies harvested the previous year begin to get low, the cows are released into the patures to graze away happily all summer long. The cows are mostly docile, and don't mind people walking among them. They were a bit alarmed by the presence of a new dog, Puddin, my mother and father's pom mix who has come with me to live in Minnesota. She is having a blast on the farm . . . but the cows are not sure what to make of her. She came out with me as I walked in the pasture with the cows, but unfortunately she stirred up the only wildish cow in the group . . . named "Spot" . . . who bellared out her displeasure, and alarmed the rest of the cows who responded and tried to stomp the little dog. Fortunately, Puddin figured out her danger, and she ran as fast as she could, with a couple cows in pursuit, across the field and out the gate. OK . . .don't let the pom out with the cows! I left with her, going around the other way. I then circled back along the outside of the fence and got the rest of the pictures of the calves and cows. There are lots of very cute calves . . . . the farm's future producers, or meat animals. It pays to be female in a herd like this . . . but that doesn't always guarantee you a safe place to live. If you don't take care of your calf you'll find yourself at the meat locker. The farm also has barn cats, with a current crop of kittens. I have no idea who is the mom to this kitten, but he's cute. And here is Puddin! Though this is not a sharp image, it captures her movement and her excitement as she was hopping through deep and wet grass. She is enjoying the farm. She still keeps trying to challenge the other farm dog here, a husky, who out-weighs her by about 5 to 6 times. I'll have to watch her around the cows, but perhaps she will be wary of them now. She likes playing with the kittens. From a farm in Minnesota . . . Happy Mother's Day!

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