After spending Friday chasing cows, I was looking forward to a restful Sabbath the next day. It certainly started out that way. I was able to do some studying, nap a little and then about 4 pm the Farmer came and told me that he thought Toolie was laying on a brown cow. What?! I asked him if he thought either Goodie or Nettie was sick or had somehow died in the night. The only thing I could think of was that Toolie, as the oldest heifer in that field, was trying to protect someone sick or guard a body. The Farmer didn’t think so and asked me to come check things out.
I went through the milking parlor and out into the field. I saw Toolie laying down at the very bottom of the hill (of course!) but I didn’t see a cow near her. I glanced around the field and spotted Nettie and Goodie grazing off to the right. I didn’t see any other cows in our field. Now…I’m totally confused! I started walking down the hill but still didn’t see anything…had the Farmer been out in the sun too long?
20 feet away – nothing. 10 feet – nothing. 5 feet – nothing. I was almost on top of Toolie when I saw a very tiny brownish calf. A very new calf...a few hours old calf!
My mind is spinning trying to figure out how a calf ended up in our field. Toolie wasn’t bred…Goodie and Nettie were just babies. Dixie was due but she was on the other side of the farm…no way did her calf end up here. My mind just couldn’t make this work. Toolie was laying very close and being very protective of this little one who appeared to be in distress…panting heavily – it was about 95 out…again.
Then Toolie stood up. She was stringing mucus and blood.
Obviously she had just had this calf but how was that possible? 9 to 10 months gestation and Toolie was only 13 months old! How was this possible? First things first! We needed to get baby cooled off!
The Farmer haltered Toolie, who wasn’t about to leave that baby for nothin’! I picked up baby (ugh! 25 lbs uphill in high heat and humidity). Why is this hill smaller and the barn closer in spring and fall weather? I put the baby down in the shade by the water trough so that Toolie would drink and boy did she! She was thirsty after what she had just been through but wouldn’t leave her little one to get a drink of water and baby was to weak to walk. What a good mama cow!
I took a bucket of water and gently poured it over baby so it could cool down. I placed a call to the friends we bought Toolie from and they assured me it had to be Dixie’s calf…except it wasn’t. When I explained it was obvious that Toolie had just had this baby, she asked me “how is that possible?”. I had to laugh…that’s why I was calling her! She had a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that one of her bulls must have bred Toolie (had to have been through a fence line) when she was just 3 months old! My friends are extremely conscientious about making sure babies are moved away from bulls before they are of breeding age. What happened? My friend jumped in her car and headed our way to make sure everyone was doing well and to see if she thought this baby was early or full term. .
The fact that Mom and baby survived all of this is a blessing. Toolie wasn’t fed like a pregnant heifer would have been fed. No one was keeping an eye out in case she had trouble calving her first time…she was flat out on her own…she never even looked pregnant! One thing is for sure, if not for the conscientious checking of his cows by the Farmer, this baby would not have survived another 5 hours of intense heat.
We turned the calf over and found out we had a little girl! She was very weak. We tried holding her to nurse, and Toolie stood still as a statue to let her, but she was too weak to suckle. I ran to check farm supplies and found an unopened bag of kid milk replacer left over from when we had goats. It would do in a pinch. I borrowed a baby bottle from my daughter-in-law next door, made a batch of milk and added molasses to tempt the calf. I also squirted some over the baby to get mama licking her off…just in case they hadn’t bonded. Elijah offered her the bottle and managed to squirt some into her mouth as she was attempting to suckle. He was able to get a few ounces down her.
By the time our friend got there, this little one was standing on shaky legs and attempting to nurse. Toolie seemed to know that she needed to nurse and was trying to guide her to the right spot.
The trouble was that it didn’t appear that Toolie had much milk to offer. I guess that growing up while pregnant was a bit too much on her to allow her to also produce the normal amount of milk. We needed to get some colostrum into this baby!
The calf was just not strong enough to stand and nurse so she would topple over after a minute or so! We offered the bottle, tried to get a little down her and then helped her stand again. We spent several hours out there in the field trying to help her nurse and getting an ounce or two down her from the baby bottle. We made a list of things we needed from the Farmer’s Co-op – things we had planned on picking up before Dixie calved but hadn’t gotten around to yet. This little surprise really caught us unprepared! We figured we should be offering bottles every 3 to 4 hours which meant two feedings in the middle of the night, and one around dawn. Welcome to the homestead life!
My friend showed us how to pull tail hairs to check the parentage of this little girl. Turns out that there was another bull on her property about this time, along with her own two bulls, so now we need to find out which bull might have had access to Toolie! Those have been mailed off to UC Davis for testing…we should know who to shake our finger at in about two weeks.
We need to really pump the nutrition to Toolie to help her recover and we need to get this little one to eat so she can get strong and healthy.
AND we need a name…