Two weeks ago we had our first real snow. Of course, Queen decided that was the perfect time to have her calf, as well as break into a different pasture.
She was super late calving, so when I found her laying down off by herself with snow on its way, I was not happy. How am I going to manage a downed cow all on my own? When she stood up with blood on her tail, I made her start walking and frantically started searching for a calf. All the while telling myself, “she’s up, that’s the important thing. I can deal with a calf or a miscarriage, not a downed cow”.
As I walked her into a stand of cedars, it started to flurry. She stood there, back hunched, but nothing coming out as I backed into the branches for extra cover. I turned to see the peanut gallery lined up watching. Every other cow, steer, calf, and bull was in an almost perfect line, peeking out of the trees, watching her. Lilly was in a tizzy, mooing softly, pacing, obviously worried. I trust these guys to know what’s good or bad more than myself, so seeing both of these things did not set my mind at ease.
Queen would look back at me from time to time and I decided to give her some space and let whatever was going to happen, happen. I knew what was going on, I was close, and I had my herd watching and hopefully alerting me to any new developments. With one ear turned to her, I went to check the broken fence and make repairs.
As I cursed Fred for making a permanent power jump right where I needed to fix, I started the walk all the way back to the barn to cut the power and something in the middle of the next pasture caught my eye.
I turned just in time to see a little calf butt plop down in a tuft of grass. YES! Alive and, once I get it over to Queen, well. As always, new calves are too tired to run away, so I gave it a quick check and as I grabbed the back leg to reveal the gender, I said a quick, “please be a girl, please be a girl!” Queen has always given us boys, and having a girl from her and Redd would be a genetic jackpot.
A boy. Now is the perfect time to do our crimping castration. He’s easy to handle and still a bit out of it from being born. But I don’t have the implement, nor the ability to hold him by myself, so that would have to wait.
By now, the snow is coming down pretty hard and this boy isn’t moving. I am screaming at Queen to call him. Taunting her that I am touching her baby and what’s she going to do about it. Nothing. I pick him up by the backside so she can see me handling him and still, nothing. All I want is one good moo calling him to her and my job will be so much easier. But for some reason, she is just fine with me breaking my back to get him to stand, both of us getting covered in snow.
By this time I m screaming “Baby boy, you HAVE to GET UP!!!! You HAVE to get OUT OF THE SNOW!!!!” But he won’t listen. I decide dragging him by his back legs is better than leaving him in the snow with zero cover. He decides otherwise. Ok, the front legs. That gets me about 2 feet closer to Queen, and still no moo from her. One more try with the front and he pops up.
I’ve found the only way to get a newborn calf to move is walk directly behind it, gently nudging on each side of the rump and guiding it with my hands. And we we’re walking!
I get him to duck under the fence as Queen lets out a low moo and he walks around to nurse. With my smell all over him, Queen starts to methodically lick every place I touched, side eyeing me as she decontaminates him. Lilly comes over to try to lick him and Queen lets her know she needs no help. I give him a few minutes to eat and then usher them back into the trees so she can find a spot to bed him down.
Three days later, we get about 4-5 inches of snow. As much as I want to go find that little boy, I know it’s a waste of time. When a cow beds down her calf, you can’t find it. Somehow they can hide them in a tuff of grass and you will walk right past them. It’s some kind of crazy momma cow magic.
Friday, I walk down and see Queen. She is up, bag is full, but not too full, and she looks well. I don’t see baby boy. Queen is calm, and so is Lilly, so I am sure where ever the calf is, he’s fine.
A week after his birth is the first time I see him. He’s playing with BJ, nursing, roaming among the herd, bright eyed and active. Keeping our herd on pasture year round definitely makes for hearty stock!
So what do you name a little boy who survived a snow storm on his birthday and an even worse one a few days later? You name him after the god of snow, Boreas. Bo for short. We haven’t decided on castration or not. And the thought of wrestling him in the cold and mud is not that appealing right now. I’m getting enough of that with the pigs. So if he stays a bull, his official name will be Boreas Rey de la Nieve, Boreas King of the Snow!