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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Teen Age Mothers of our Farm

We consider calving season finished when the last heifer calves.  A heifer is a female bovine that has not had a calf. On our ranch they are usually 2 years old.  I like to call them the teenage mothers of the farm.  And these are the teenage mothers that don't get to read the book What to Expect When You Are Expecting.  ;)  These are the clueless ones that try to deny they are pregnant until they go into labor.

About the end of February, I feel like I have spent more time with them than my own family.  I never know what I am going to find when I go out to check the "girls" and I feel like they need constant babysitting.

Here are a couple of examples.  One Saturday afternoon, I went to town to get a few groceries.  I had watched one of the heifers with her newborn before lunch and decided I should check on her when I got back from town.  When I pulled up to the gate, I did not like what I saw...

That's right!  The calf had fallen face first into the creek and she was just standing there "protecting" it.  I snapped this picture as I was going down the clay covered creek bank (in my good go to town shoes).  The calf was laying with one nostril in the water, but was still breathing.  Thank you Lord for watching over this calf! 

I pushed the heifer out of the way and drug the calf back up the bank.  Baby calves are not light, ours usually weigh 50-65 pounds.  As soon as I got him back to the top, he stood up and took off walking with mom...away from the creek.
Now, I just needed to convince The Farmer that I needed a new pair of shoes to replace the ones that are now stained orange from the clay on the creek bank.

I had been watching another heifer for quite some time in labor one afternoon.  I had to stay several hundred yards away or she got nervous and took off walking.  Of course, I didn't get out the scope or binoculars to see how close she was laying to the creek bank, but I could tell when she was really pushing and when she stopped.   When she stopped pushing, I walked to see if she needed some help and found this...

That's right, she sat herself down so close to the edge of the bank that when the calf finally came out it slid straight down the bank!  If you look closely, you can see the skid marks from the calf's legs.
The calf was laying right at the waters edge.  I called The Farmer and said, "I NEED HELP!"  I was pretty sure it would take me the rest of the day to get the calf back to the top and I needed his strong back.

He picked up the calf and started climbing...
and climbing...
and climbing...
and climbing.
He laid the calf a safe distance from the bank and I went to make the heifer get up.  Yep, she was still laying there resting clueless to the fact that she had just given birth and had new responsibilities. 
After I got her up, and drove her toward the calf she decided it smelled good and that maybe she should take care of it.

Heifers also have their calves in nice places, but as soon as the calf is delivered they take off.  We don't have a leave your baby at the hospital and no one will come looking for you policy.  Nope, we go find these girls and make them take care of the baby they brought into this world.

We have seen two heifers calve side by side in the middle of a pasture and then both heifers only take care of one calf.  Apparently they think it is a team sport and it is fine to leave the other little guy out in the cold.  I have seen them actually get in a fight over who's calf it actually is.  Think two 1000 pound cows having a "cat fight" with a 50 pound baby in the middle.  

Now, don't get me wrong.  We do have some great girls that take care of their calves and get them off to a great start in life.  I also know some teenage moms that are working their tails off to become fabulous mother's to their son or daughter.  One of them is a faithful follower of this blog.  It's just that immaturity is just as prevalent in the animal world as it is in the human world. 

 I now see why older farmers tend to not calve heifers and buy older cows that someone else has helped them through that first calf. 

-A Kansas Farm Mom