From Pipi’s Pasture: Another story about bottle calves
Sometimes when I drive up to the summer pasture I don’t see a single animal. The cattle take advantage of the thick brush on the property to stay cool and get in out of the wind and rain, and they are so quiet that we can drive right past them. However, this week I was fortunate to find some of the herd at a pond next to the county road, and Turbo was there, too.
Last week I wrote that we had taken Turbo — last year’s bottle calf — up to the pasture when we hauled the bull and a heifer and calf up there. I was worried because the other animals made a dash up the hill while Turbo was content to eat grass at the gate. He had never been on summer pasture before, and when the others took off, I was afraid he wouldn’t be smart enough to find the main herd. So I was relieved to find him at the pond with the others.
All of this has triggered memories of bottle calves of the past. Actually, it is somewhat of a curse to have to feed a bottle calf; you have to be there to feed the calf twice a day, and the milk replacer is expensive. Over the years, however, we have fed several, for various reasons — for example, a twin whose mom didn’t have enough milk for two calves or a calf whose mom had a bad bag. In any case, when possible, we have learned to leave the calves with their moms. The cows nurture the calves, sometimes they’re able to feed the calves a little bit, and the calves learn to come to a bottle, too.
Such is the story of one of Pipi’s calves. Pipi is the cow for whom Pipi’s Pasture was named.
As she grew older, Pipi’s bag turned bad. So one year I left the calf with her, and twice a day I’d go out to the pasture and call “Baby-e-e, Baby-e-e” and the calf would come running. After he drank the bottle he ran to his mom and nursed. We had no way of knowing how much milk he got from Pipi.
The bottle feeding went on all spring, and when it came time for the cattle to go to summer pasture, the calf was pretty big. So I slowly cut down on his bottle milk, took him off the bottle, and Pipi and the calf went to summer pasture with the others.
I worried about the calf, though, so when we went up to check the pasture I always took a bottle of milk along. I remember getting out of the pickup truck and calling “Baby-e-e, Baby-e-e” and the calf answered me from deep inside the brush. Pretty soon, Pipi and the calf would come out into the open, and I fed the calf his bottle. It was quite a sight — a big calf standing beside his mom, drinking from a calf bottle.
Turbo and Baby-e-e — two of the dozens of stories about bottle calves!