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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Saga of Twin Calves

When everyone saw the Facebook post about the twin calves that were born before the first snow storm, there was a huge amount of enthusiasm.  

There were comments like great, how cute, and a bonus!  Many times ranchers say the same things about twins with a huge amount of sarcasm.  WHY?  You might ask.  Well, you see cows typically only want to take care of 1 baby.  There are exceptions to every rule, but cows are not taught to treat all their children the same and there usually becomes a favorite.  We have seen sets of twins once and never see the second one again because the cow takes it away and hides it.  And sadly someone besides a cow finds it too and has it for lunch.

If we find a set of twins in our cow herd, we pick one of them up and take it to the barn to be cared for in a couple of different ways.  These twins had been taken care of pretty well, but one was visibly colder and wetter than the other one.  We took him.

He got a quick ride home on the back of the pickup in the calf sled.  The dogs watched over him. 

When we got home, we put a calf coat on him.  Left him in the calf sled, out of the wind, and in the sunshine.  It was a nice day it the temperature reached 50 F, so he was warmed up in no time. 

We had a heifer give birth to a still born calf a few days earlier.  She still had milk in her udder, so we decided to try to make a foster mother out of her.  Foster parents are great, but in humans it is their choice, this heifer did not say pick me!  We said you look like the best candidate.  Now we had to convince her that she will make a good mama.

This heifer actually acted like she liked the calf, but did not want to let him nurse.  We put her in a squeeze chute to contain her and helped him get some dinner.  My Farmer even sat by the calf helping him keep his balance in the awkward position of nursing in the chute.
 See he can be sweet! 
That evening the same thing, she wasn’t going to let him nurse.  We put her in the chute and this time she still kicked him.  Poor little guy!  We put a “flank rope” on her.  This rope kept her from kicking the calf and he could get his belly full for the night.

Again the next morning, she talked to the calf like he was hers, but if he went near the udder she kicked and butted him.  Back in the chute again, but she didn’t kick when he nursed.  I didn’t have to put on the flank rope.  (Whew, I hate putting my hands and head close to kicking feet.)

Then there was a miracle!  I walked into the barn and saw...success!!!

And again that afternoon! 
 He was getting pretty active and she thought about kicking him a couple of times, but decided she better not.  

Of course, his brother is doing fabulous out with his mama in the pasture.  I put a purple tag in him (different that the other calves), so I could check on him easier.  They are doing wonderful and she is taking excellent care of him.

We were lucky that both of these calves were bulls.  When a heifer calf is born twin to a bull calf, she has a 95% chance of being sterile due to the increased level of testosterone in the uterus during gestation.

-A Kansas Farm Mom