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The Prodigal Calf Is Recaptured

written by

Carole Soule

posted on

March 12, 2023

With their long, sharp horns and maternal instincts, Scottish Highland cows will charge predators to protect a calf. The calf will be safe in the same pasture as the herd. But if the calf runs off, the story changes.

Easter on the Farm

Meet our calves at our Easter on the Farm Celebration on April 8, 2023, from 11 am to 3 pm at Miles Smith Farm. Register here.

The Prodigal Calf

Every once in a while, a story that should have been a tragedy turns out to have a happy ending. It began on a rainy Tuesday in July 2022.

It was the second day of our Farm Day Camp, and the campers had left for the day. The animals had been fed, and I was looking forward to a relaxing evening when Tad drove into the barnyard towing a stock trailer. I had forgotten I’d agreed to show Tad some of the cattle I was offering for sale. I loved teaching 18 campers how to train their calves but was tired and half-hoped that Tad would not be interested in any of my cows.

A Calf Runs Off

But he picked out a cow/calf pair, plus a single black bull calf. The black calf had a halter on but was wild and would need lots of handling and bottle feeding, which Tad agreed to do. Minutes after we agreed on a price, the sky opened, and buckets of rain poured down. That might have been a warning, but it was one we ignored. When the rain let up a bit, we loaded the cattle, and Tad drove away. After he arrived at his Hampton Falls farm, Tad removed the bull calf’s halter and put him in a corral surrounded by a five-foot fence. As Tad watched, this tiny calf jumped over the fence and scampered into the woods. Tad and the local police searched for the calf, but after a week, they gave up. The little guy would either starve or be killed by coyotes.

That’s what happened to one of my calves a few years ago. It happened like this:

My Story

During a routine pasture walk, I startled a newborn calf. Like Tad’s calf, it ran off, disappearing into the forest. We searched for hours, but the calf had vanished.

After I posted my problem on Facebook, folks as far away as Maine offered help. One person brought his tracking dogs to the farm and searched for two days before giving up. Highland cows come running when they hear the high-pitched bawling of a newborn calf and will charge predators to kill or drive them off. The calf would have been safe in the pasture but not on the other side of the fence.

On the fourth day, we discovered the blood-soaked part of the forest floor where the kill had happened. The calf must have felt safe in the forest, among the trees and within sight of his mom, safe from humans -- but not coyotes. That time neither the herd nor I could save him.

From that experience, I guessed that Tad’s calf had met the same fate in the forest. 

A Lost Calf is Found

But in January, five months after his calf’s escape, Tad got a call from the police. His calf had been living in the woods near a goat farm, and the woman farmer had been feeding him. She had named him Lenny. He trusted her but was afraid of other humans. She had wanted to keep Lenny, so she hadn’t reported finding him until he repeatedly crashed through her fences. Tad captured him only after Lenny had damaged a few more fences and broken a stained glass window. 

This time a lost-calf story has a happy ending. Lenny is now at Tad’s farm, where he is now part of a small herd and no longer destroys fences. Coyotes don’t win every time.

Easter on the Farm

Meet our calves at our Easter on the Farm Celebration on April 8, 2023, from 11 am to 3 pm at Miles Smith Farm. Register here.

prodigal calf

Highland calves

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