From Pipi’s Pasture: Remembering bottle calves
Some years we finish up the calving season with one or two bottle calves here at Pipi’s Pasture; some years we don’t have any. The “not any” years are lucky years because feeding a bottle calf is an expensive business, and it means an extra chore, too.
The other day I was buying some milk replacer when another customer asked me if we had lost a cow. I don’t remember ever feeding a calf because we lost its mother, but I do remember supplementing calves because their older mothers quit producing as much milk compared to their younger years. In some cases their bags went “bad.” I remember one case in particular.
The cow belonged to our granddaughter Jessica Prather when she was a young girl. The cow lived here at Pipi’s Pasture. Up until this remembered year, the cow never had any bag problems so we didn’t have any concerns when she had her calf out in the pasture. We watched the calf nurse and didn’t realize that it wasn’t getting enough to eat.
Then late one night or early in the morning — I don’t remember exactly when, but there were stars in the sky and it was cold — when I was going back and forth to the corral to check cows, I noticed the cow and calf up by the gate that leads into Pipi’s Pasture. At first I ignored them; there’s nothing unusual about animals being next to the gate. But as I kept going back and forth the cow and calf were still there, and the calf never laid down. So I touched the calf. She was icy cold.
I have never forgotten what I did next. I put my flashlight down, opened the gate, and started pushing the calf down the fence line to the gate that opened into the back part of the corral. The calf never tried to get away, and mama followed along.
We went across the back corral and into the front where I pushed the calf into a small pen. Mama followed. Then I hurried back to the house and fixed the calf a very warm bottle of milk replacer. Back at the corral I dribbled a little milk on the calf’s nose. It didn’t argue. The baby was hungry, and she didn’t take any time finishing off the bottle. I pushed the calf into the very back of the pen where it was warm.
From then on, until it was time to go to summer pasture, the calf got two bottles a day. Eventually the mother cow came into her milk, and she did a fine job of raising her calf.
There’s another big reason that we feed calves on the bottle. We have had our share of twins, several sets belonging to a cow named “Moose,” named for her huge frame. Moose belongs to Megan, our other granddaughter. Since I’m out of room for this week’s column, more about the twins next week.