The pigs were stinky, aggressive, and a lot of work. That’s why they are called the mortgage lifter. Few want to do it. Cattle are mellow. It’s no wonder the Hindus revere them so. Our numbers point to cattle as a hobby. Pets with a purpose, maybe a form of charity.
One in particular is endearing to me, like the heifer in Buster Keaton’s “Go West”, Ghosty has a full white face unlike the rest of our cows. She is so quiet. She seems to know we will provide without her having to fight over the feed. When we feed the cows in the winter and our system requires us to lock them out while we distribute the feed, we open the gate and she’s always the last one in. She is a descendent of Old Number Two.
Old Number Two was purchased from Jeff, who acquired her because there was no other buyer at the sale barn willing to buy an old bag of bones like her. She raised a calf each of four years and was getting pretty thin but we never got around to selling her. Then she had twins and raised them both, sorta unusual.
Ghosty was about 150 yards down on the north side of the drainage ditch when she gave birth to Casper. The next day they were near the road by some tall grass that was outside the electric fence. Dawn was nearby on the road when she heard Casper yowl like they do if they touch the fence. The next day I noticed Casper was curled up in the tall grass and hadn’t gotten up for a while.
It’s good to be careful with these babies because if spooked they will run away in some random direction. That’s why we quit ear tagging and vaccinating newborns. The bonding with the mother is more important at that age.
I decided to pull the calf under the fence to be by his mom. He didn’t struggle. He wouldn’t get up. We put him in the Ranger and took him home to feed him and check why he seemed brain-dead. He didn’t even know how to suck. He swallowed some milk but never sucked. We fed him with a tube a couple times but he never seemed to come around. We stood him up and went to the Municipal Band concert. He was still standing and exhausted when we returned home. He didn’t know how to lay down.
Ghosty barely threatened us as we loaded him in the Ranger. We appreciated her understanding as she seemed to know we meant well. There’s a fine line between a protective cow and a mean one. We have a neighbor who has 11 broken ribs and 2 punctured lungs because of a mean cow. They are big and strong and when the time comes their focus is on the baby.
Casper ended up dying. What started out as a vital, stumbling, bull calf turned into a beautiful body with no brain.
Doris (our Blue Heeler dog) and I go on patrol twice a day in the Ranger. I watch for thistles to spray and anything that needs attention with cattle and fences. Although the high tensile fence is mostly trouble free, the 17 gauge through the timber can be a problem, mostly because of deer. That light wire is what we have crossing the drainage ditch where Casper yowled. Maybe he was in contact with the fence too long.
New Zealanders say Americans underpower and overbuild. Most of the fence is high enough that calves can go under it. They never go far. Casper had pulled apart a splice so he made good (or bad) contact. Any place with that light wire is now higher than a calf’s head.
It’s almost been a week and Ghosty still looks at the Ranger like we are bringing back her baby, she ambles over and looks me in the eye, then turns and walks away.