Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A lesson in death and a mama cows love

I mentioned the other day that we'd bought 2 bottle babies, Pearl & Dash. Sunday evening our friend called and said that he'd lost a newborn calf, that half of a hay ring had fallen on it, crushing its head. The mama cow stood next to it, licking it. Our friend raises black Angus cattle. We drove over so that Mr. Wild could help move the ring and the calf.

The next day Mr. Wild was over there and they checked on the mama cow, she was standing in the same spot in the field only now, her udder was huge. They started talking about bringing her into a stall in the barn to see if they could milk her. Our friends son mentioned putting a calf on her, if she would accept it and did anyone know of any new calves for sale. Our friend said he knew someone that had a new bottle baby.

Our cow Popeye had been with the bottle babies 2 and a half days and Pearl (the baby Angus) still wouldn't nurse, she only wanted the bottle. We were milking Popeye before Sasha and Dash nursed. Pearl was also timid and would stand in the corner, alone.

Mr. Wild, our friend and his son started talking about how they could get the mama cow to accept Pearl. Our friend said he'd heard about putting a dead calfs hide onto another calf to trick the mama. The son asked if he'd ever tried it, none of them had. They called our other friend, an old farmer who is full of so much knowledge! He said they'd done it a few times when he was younger and it had been successful. So they decided to give it a try.

They loaded up cattle panels so they could isolate the mama cow from the herd, so they could load her into the trailer. They set the panels up and drug the calf into the middle. The mama cow put her nose almost to the ground and followed the scent, into the ring of panels. They pulled the trailer up, backing up to the circle. Mr. Wild drug the calf into the trailer and again the mama followed. They drove her up to the barn to put her in the stall. They had to pull the calf through the stall to unload her. She stood in the stall snorting and pawing at the ground. They hung the calf to skin it. Mr. Wild came home to get Pearl.

I was in the barn with Pearl, Dash & Sasha when he got home and told me what they were doing. I told him they were going to traumatize Pearl for life, he just laughed. I told him I was staying home, that I didn't want to see it. I also asked him to please get Pearl out of the stall if the mama cow acted like she was going to hurt or kill her.

He took Pearl over and they put the hide on her. It covered her from her shoulders back. They put her in with the mama cow. She started sniffing it, at her head and then the tail. They said she did this for awhile then she started licking her! At first Pearl was skittish and would run to the corner, but the mama kept licking her, nuzzling her. Pearl had only had her morning bottle, so she was really hungry. She started sniffing and licking the mamas udder and teats, they were so swollen that she would flinch and Pearl would run back to the corner. They decided to leave them alone for awhile.

A few hours later they went back up to the barn to check on them and Pearl was nursing on the front quarter! When she would nudge the rest of the udder, the mama would flinch. The mama was still licking Pearl and was very protective, she'd moo and stomp/paw and rush the wall of the stall when they would look over. They had put in a huge bucket of water and grain before putting the mama in, so she was set for the night.

The next morning I went with Mr. Wild to check on them. Pearl had nursed all 4 teats and was nuzzling against the mama when we looked over the stall wall (we had to stand on ladders to see in). The mama was still protective, pawing at the ground when she saw us. We put a hose over the wall into the buck to give her water and put hay in.

This morning we went to check on them again and also to take the hide off of Pearl. The mama cow has settled down, Pearl is nursing and munching a little on the grain and hay. Mr. Wild went into the stall and took the hide off. The mama cow started licking her again (I was worried about that because the hide had started to smell and I didn't know if the mama would reject her because of it). We gave them hay, fresh water and some grain.

Pearl has a mama that loves her as her own and the mama cow has her baby back.