Friday, February 24, 2012

Calf Chronicles three

It has been a hard week on the calf front.

Yesterday while out looking for Teardrop's calf I stumbled across this poor cow standing guard over her stillborn calf. I know there is nothing I could have done for the calf but the interactions with the mamas are always the hardest.  She will stand there defending her baby for hours but when I come on scene to assess the calf and she comes over and nuzzles it while I sit on the ground petting it, we share a moment. It is hard to not anthropomorphize animals when you can so clearly see she is racked with grief. She wants someone else to confirm what she already knows. I tell her that she is a good mama and we will take care of her baby now. She turns and trudges away slowly up to the hay shed. She doesn't look back.

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It is such a human-centric way of thinking to assume that every pregnancy, birth and calf would and should have a perfect ending. Nature is not cruel, that is just life. We are the ones that assign emotions to a natural process. It feels like such a waste for all parties involved to have put nine months of work into this calf only to lose it at the very end of the pregnancy. It is frustrating to have one less calf to sell come fall, that is how we put food on the table. It seems harsh to cull the cow because she lost the calf, it was not her fault but from a business perspective, it is not wise for the bottom line to pay to feed an "unproductive" animal for the next year. These days I feel much too soft for such a cold business philosophy.

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We couldn't find anything wrong with the calf. It was fully-formed and hadn't been dead more than a couple hours. The cow had done a good job of cleaning it up on one side but it was still dirty on the other side indicating that it never moved once it hit the ground. The calf was a little on the large side and judging from the markings was sired by Jugghead our herd bull. Maybe the labor was a little long and stressful or maybe the cord got pinched and deprived the calf of oxygen in utero. We won't know.

All we can hope for now is that we got all of our calf drama and mishaps out of the way early in the season and the rest will be smooth sailing. I certainly hope so as I could use some time to recharge from all the drains and strains of the last week.

Fingers crossed.

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