From Pipi’s Pasture: Thoughts on a calf named Turbo
April 26, 2018
This morning, I was trying to decide on a topic for this week's column. Our grandson, Kenny, was sitting across the table, and he said, "Write about Turbo." Turbo is the second of two full-time calves we're feeding this year, and while we were talking about him, Turbo was sprawled out on the back lawn right beside the propane tank. We could see him through the dining room window.
Turbo is Kenny's calf. His mother is Cinnamony, one of Kenny's first cows. We don't remember her age, exactly, but we guess her to be about 16. She's no spring chicken, but not really old, either — certainly, she's not as old as Ucky and Sarah, my old cows that are about 23. Anyway, Cinnamony's milk production has been slowing down the past couple of years, and this year, her calf was really small.
Turbo was born on a cool March morning. Kenny's sister, Megan, spotted the calf. Cinnamony washed him off while Megan alerted her dad, Jamie, who was visiting from Alaska. Since it has been cold this calving season, we have used the four-wheeler and a boat (used to haul in game during hunting season) to bring calves into the shop to warm up. However, when Jamie saw how small the calf was, he scooped it into his arms and took it to a shed in the corral. Cinnamony followed along.
The little brown calf weighed 30 to 40 pounds. He was fully-developed, but small. Apparently Cinnamony just couldn't provide him with the nutrients he needed to grow. After a while, it became apparent the calf needed to warm up, so Jamie packed him to the shop. Turbo spent a lot of the day on a gunny sack bed while heat from an electric heater warmed him.
After awhile, Turbo had warmed enough to be hungry, and Megan found a lamb nipple and a small glass bottle in her livestock supplies. We filled it with warm colostrum. Eventually, we exchanged the glass bottle for a small, plastic water bottle (the kind that "crinkle") because the milk could be kind of pushed out. The calf drank — a little at first, but gradually more as time went on. Then, he got up. We all cheered, days later, when he began to play.
The shop was Turbo's home for more than a month. He slept next to the 4-wheeler, chewed on the pool table cover, had daily fights with a tool box and looked forward to visits from the people who cared for him. There really wasn't a way to reunite Turbo with his mother, but he thrived on two full bottles of milk replacer per day.
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One warm morning, Turbo was introduced to the outdoors. He got to spend warm days in the backyard, where the grass was greening up. He met the cats and saw calves across the fence. Turbo went inside the shop at night and spent stormy days there, too.
Then, two days ago, Turbo got to spend the night outdoors. Everybody (except me) agreed he was big enough to stay outdoors. I protested, but gave in; Turbo has to grow up. (Actually, he has grown, physically.) The first nigh,t he bawled when anyone went near the shop, but he has adjusted.
This summer, Cinnamony will stay at Pipi's Pasture, then be reunited with Turbo — at least they will be together, even if he doesn't nurse on her. Will she remember?