We have a small herd of cattle here on the Prairie. We’ve reduced the herd in recent years due to the drought, high cost of hay and our land would only support so many due to the large amount of cedar trees on our property. The drought appears to be over (we hope), hay costs have come back down and we have more available pasture land thanks to the mass removal of cedar trees Building a Homestead – Part 1.
Building up the herd is a slow process. We started out with one small heifer (female calf) given to us by a neighbor when we first moved here in 1995. It was a hot July and our neighbor was talking to my husband lamenting that he was thinking about selling off his herd. It was hot, grass was brown, hay prices were high and he didn’t think his herd could make it through the summer. We had lots of grass, 3 ponds with water, but fences that needed to be repaired. John suggested they work together to get the fence put up around 55 acres. In 100+ degree temperature and with only machetes to clear high grasses and trees, the fence was repaired where possible and new fence put in where the old fence was no longer usable.
Our neighbor’s cows were moved and the herd was saved! So when the first calf was born, he gave it to us as a thank you. John was not so sure he was ready to get in the cattle business since he did have a full-time job.
Fast forward to this year, we’ve been waiting and longing to see some new calves this Spring and finally one has arrived! When we first spotted her she seemed very alert and healthy. As time passed John noticed she was not nursing. Then we noticed she was trying to nurse but was sucking on the flanks of her mom. This was definitely a new situation! We’ve experienced a mom reject her calf, refuse to nurse resulting in us bottle feeding. This usually happens after a difficult birth.
John tried to coax the calf to its mother to nurse. Nursing is so natural, that trying to teach a calf to nurse is …..just unnatural! We got out the bottle (like a baby’s, only bigger) and the milk replacement and started her on the bottle. She took to this quite well. We really did not want to continue bottle feeding. It’s like having a new baby in the house and we’re getting too old for that! Plus, bottle fed calves don’t thrive and grow like momma fed calves.
We began to wonder if she might be blind. We loaded her up in the pickup, just like we would a little baby, taking her to the Dr. (vet). The vet checked her out and pronounced her certifiably blind! It appeared she had cataracts. There was nothing he could do for her. We had a week-long trip planned out-of-state for our Grandson’s graduation. It’s one thing to ask your neighbors to feed your dogs, but you don’t ask anyone to bottle feed a calf! Now what were we going to do?
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 Yes, this is what you do.
John thought perhaps he could train the calf to find its mama’s teats by lowering the bottle to force the calf’s head lower to mimic how he would nurse his mama. He then transferred the calf to his mama. Once the calf found the teat and began to suck, she got the idea quick. No more bottle feeding!!
Then we begin to notice the calf was running, playing and bucking just like any other young calf. She was not running into fences and she was no longer blind! When we relayed the good news to the vet, he thought perhaps she must have had a virus that cleared up by itself. We are very thankful to God for this miracle on the Prairie.