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First Calf of 2021 Gets Off to a Shaky Start

May 10, 2021

The farm's first 2021 calf arrived on May 1, and she almost didn't survive. Here she is, warming up in the farmhouse.

Our first 2021 calf, Virginia's daughter, arrived on May 1 and almost met with a tragic end. Here's what happened:

   After my calf check turned up empty that morning, I decided the grass was tall enough to move the cows into the adjacent field to graze on the tender, green shoots. The plan was to move the cows and the hay feeder later that day. The hay feeder is a heavy metal contraption that keeps the hay off the ground but accessible to the cows. Because there was still some hay in the feeder, we would move the feeder to the new field so the cows could choose to eat hay or grass.

   This calf must have been born right after my calf check. Was Virginia waiting until I left the field to give birth? Did she want privacy? The ways of pregnant cows can be mysterious.

The Calf Gets Stuck

 That afternoon husband Bruce started to move the feeder with the tractor as planned. I was opening the gates to the new pasture when he bellowed my name. I ran, sort of (at 69, running is not my jam), and saw Bruce standing over a muddy lump on the ground, just in front of the feeder. It was a calf, wet and weak, but alive. The calf must have slipped under the feeder when Virginia was eating and could not get out, nor could Virginia reach her.

Life-Saving Efforts

   We put the calf in the tractor bucket and drove her to the holding pen with her concerned mother following along. Once mother and daughter were safely in the holding pen, the calf lay violently shivering while Virginia mooed gently to her. To save the calf's life, we had to do something. Vigorous toweling by helpers Olivia and Melissa (a daughter-mother team) and heat from a powerful space heater warmed and dried the calf. The veterinarian, Dr. Loren, checked the calf's vitals and pronounced the almost-dry calf healthy but in shock. With the vet's help, we tube-fed the calf some of Virginia's colostrum milk that I had collected earlier. Then, to help her warm up, we moved the calf into the house.

The Calf Survives

   She spent the night on the heated porch while Melissa and Olivia slept nearby, waking up when the heifer wandered around. The following day, when mother and daughter were reunited, the recovered calf immediately sought out her mother's teats for a breakfast buffet and, later that day, was bouncing around full of vim and vigor.

   Thank goodness Bruce was paying attention and stopped moving the feeder before harming the calf.

   Now that the calf is fully recovered, we named her Ginger – one of the hundreds of names offered by readers. Thanks, Margaret Powell, for this suggestion.

Visit Ginger and Her Siblings

   Stop by the farm during store hours Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) to visit Ginger. She already has a sibling, Thunder-Bolt, a little bull calf.

Carole Soule

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