Calf adoption ~ how we got our cow to adopt! (Part 3)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The story continues....
but if you haven't caught it so far you can read it at:

...So Bessy wasn't happy about the new little creature around her.  I mean it really is horrible to think that we took a baby calf who had been cruelly wrenched from his mother & put him in with a grieving mother who only lost her calf that morning & expected them to just 'get along'.
We began to worry that we'd be milking Bessy & then feeding the calf & although some farmers opt to do things this way, we certainly didn't want to.  Yes, "Beefy" (his name implies his destiny here at Sunnyside ~ 2014 beef is on him!!)  was an asset to our farm, but at the moment the thought of another job just sounded too much.
Before she had her calf ~ she used to babysit the piglets!

After a bit of investigation we decided we had to attempt to get the calf to smell like Bessy.  You see cows don't actually recognise their calves by sight ( although they do once they know them ~ Bessy was certainly seeing her calf today when they both got out & she was trying to get him back in & he wasn't having a bar of it ~it's the first time I've heard her properly moo since she got pregnant).  Cows recognise the calf that smells like them  & obviously this little fellow wasn't smelling right to her.  I read of a variety of options of how to achieve this, all with varying results, so me being....well me, decided I'd try as many as possible. 
Because there's more to life here at Sunnyside than cows :)

 I was able to find some placenta on the ground so the first thing I did was rub it onto him.  We then threw him under Bessy's urine ( gross hey, but apparently it works for some people ~ what a welcome though ;).  Lastly we milked a little colostrum & christened him with it!  Poor little fellow ~ what a day he'd had, but we were desperate to try almost anything at this point.  We left them again, but once again when we checked there was no difference.

After a bit more reading I decided that the only thing to do was skin the dead calf (yes, I was indeed a city girl 5 years ago).  I've never been squeamish, so I thought I'd be able to accomplish this feat unaided.  Thankfully Dave came along because I couldn't even complete the first cut into the leather  ~ cow skin is very strong!  My handsome, strong hubby took over & I was left with the easy job of holding the calf remains as Dave finished the job. (So typical me, start the job & then poor Dave has to help me achieve the finished product ~ I have the best husband ever!)   Skinning the calf certainly wasn't  easy & we wished many times we'd read a bit more about how to do it before we began ~ neither of us had ever skinned anything before, so it was definitely an experience ~ as I reminded Dave "we've had another adventure together".  
This is the skin after it had dried ~ it was originally over a fence, so it's dried folded.  It's amazing how quickly it turns to leather!!!

As a note ~ it is most important to keep the tail end intact because this is where the mother smells her baby, so you need to be careful to skin the whole back region.  We'd read varied amounts on the rest, but we just went from neck down & skipped the belly (our calf was much smaller than the one we were attaching the skin to).

Once we had the skin detached,  we put slits in the skin & attached it to the new calf with some twine we had handy.  We hesitantly put him back in with our Bess, wondering what her reaction would be.  It was almost instantaneous.... she quietened down straight away & seemed thoroughly confused.  She would look at the calf & then down to where her calf had been in the small paddock (she didn't see us move it), then back at the calf.   Finally we let her out of the tiny pen & she went straight down to see her dead calf.

Do you know that cows believe in resurrection???  As soon as our Bessy saw that her calf wasn't there, she was completely fooled into believing that she/he was alive (because in this case there was a cross over of gender ~ hmmm... tricky)! She was just so happy!  She tried getting him to drink, but he wasn't going near her.  I guess when you've been knocked around by horns that day you tend to be a little timid in going close again.  We had to adjust the 'second skin' once  more that evening adding a tie around his neck so that it wouldn't slip off his back, then we left them for the night.

The next morning Beefy was still crying for his mother & we were crying with him wondering if it was all in vain ~ after all Bessy was happy (although leaking colostrum just everywhere), but you need both calf & mother to attach to make for a successful adoption.   By lunch though he was certainly calm &  we decided that afternoon to remove the skin ( yes, it was only on for 24 hours).  Although we felt Beefy was probably adjusting to his new mother ( they were together all the time), we wanted visual evidence before we would go about our plans as we were worried that Bessy's milk would dry up or that he would die from lack of milk (we knew he was drinking water & eating grass well, but needed to know he was getting that important milk as well).  Wednesday afternoon we had visual! Much to our relief the little fellow was making a pig of himself & poor Bessy was feeding not a newborn who is tiny & gentle like her own would have been, but rather a boisterous fellow who knocked her bulging udder around very roughly with his head!

So life continues on at Sunnyside & Beefy & Bessy are such a sweet family down there in the cow paddock~ even though they look nothing alike.  They are very loyal to each other~ it is just so precious to see!  Yes, we are sad that Bessy lost her little calf & yes, there was stress as we tried to unite these two, but it was all part of the adventure that continues here at Sunnyside Farm!

Let the milking adventures begin!
(Well actually they already have :)

Have a wonderful day friends

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