From Our Farm to Your Table

Lucky Little Heifer

Mon, 2016-06-27 07:52 -- Carole Soule

The little brown heifer scooted across the field through a fence then back again. Clearly a newborn calf, we had to locate her mother. Brittany sniffed her then shoved the heifer away. The four other pregnant cows did the same. None of the pregnant cows looked like they had just given birth. So who's baby was this?

Two days earlier, Ulani, had given birth to a silver bull calf. We brought mother and calf out of the field to the “Holding Pen” where we could monitor the baby, keep flies away and make sure he was nursing. This bull calf was big and wobbly so watching him was important. Newborn calves must nurse within a few hours to get colostrum from their moms. Two days after birth the calf can no longer absorb the rich immune factors in colostrum so if they don't nurse right away they are susceptible to disease. A few years ago one of our calves died because she missed the “colostrum window.” Since then we learned that keeping the calf protected from the weather and administering antibiotics, if required, can keep the calf alive so I wasn't too worried about missing out on colostrum, but she was bone thin and needed nourishment.

We mixed up milk replacer which this little calf sucked down in minutes. Usually it takes a few tries to get our Scottish Highlander calves to nurse from a bottle but this starving little girl took right to the rubber nipple. Then it occurred to me...she must be a twin. Ulani, mother of the bull, was skinny as a rail and must have had twins. The next day she let the heifer, now named Lucky, nurse for a bit but mostly Ulani pushed Lucky away and kicked at her.

Now Lucky is a bottle baby who has imprinted on humans, any human with a bottle, as her mother. The smallest calf in our group of weaned babies, she pushes the bigger calves around and kicks up her heals as she cavorts around the paddock. She's a spunky little girl whose will to live kept her alive for two days.

Lucky is happily living with a family in Canterbury.  Her twin is in the working steer program and you'll be able to visit with him at the Hopkinton Fair in September, 2017! 

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