This week I took four pigs and a heifer to the butcher. Processing animals that I have spent so much time raising is challenging and sad, but we also have animals we won't process; ones that have a lifetime job on the farm like Lou, a working steer who could spend his life as a working steer with his buddy, JoJo.
Lou was born on the farm two years ago to a Scottish Highlander cow named, Ulani. The day after he was born we moved Ulani and Lou to the holding pen to make sure they bonded and that Lou, a white bull calf, was healthy. A day later we found another calf in the field. Two other cows were due to give birth but neither showed an interest in this brown heifer. I was puzzled until I realized that Ulani had given birth to twins.
Twins can be a problem. Giving birth to one calf is stressful for a cow. Giving birth to two calves is dangerous and can result in the death of one or both calves as well as the cow. Apparently, Ulani had no trouble giving birth to twins but would not accept this second calf and wouldn't let it nurse. Most calves don't like drinking from a bottle at first but this one was hungry and devoured the bottled milk we offered her. It was obvious she was a survivor. She had spent at least one whole day on her own and was still alive. We named her Lucky.
We gave her to a farmer who wanted to raise a bottle baby. For two years Lucky had a great life with two older Highlander cows, some sheep, and two rams. While the Highlander cows were at the farm, Lucky ignored the rams. When the farmer sold the two older cows the barnyard dynamics turned ugly. Without the big cows around, Lucky turned into a “hater of rams.” She attacked the bigger of the two rams but the 90-pound ram had no chance against a 400-pound heifer. Lucky always won and if the farmer had not saved him, would have killed him.
The farmer kept the ram and I took Lucky back to Miles Smith Farm where she is now with her twin brother, Lou. While her brother is a quiet, submissive steer, Lucky is a feisty heifer who follows me around licking my coat. I'm not sure what the rest of her story will be. I'll try to find a job for her but for now, she has a great life with twenty-eight other little Highlanders and as long as we keep the rams away, she'll be happy.