April 2, 2013 by Taylor Angus
As calving season is winding down, we have encountered a tragedy. A baby calf was recently born dead. We have no idea what caused it, the only plausible explanation is that things happen, and you always have to be prepared for when they do. It was the worst feeling in the world, watching as the mother was cleaning it, begging it to get up. She had an udder full of milk and wanted to be a mother so badly. You could just see it. Fortunately for her, we were there to come to the rescue.
About a month earlier, another one of our cows had had a set of twins, and had only claimed one. When we had found it, it was curled up in a little ball trying to keep warm in a light skiff of snow. Its mother had never given it a second glance, which is natural, as most cows are used to only having one baby to look after. When we found this baby, we knew it had to be a twin because of its size. It wouldn’t have weighed 50 lbs, and most calves weigh around 70. So we put it in the floor boards of the truck and carried it home to raise it on the bottle. It lived and was thriving.
From a production standpoint, its a waste to have a mama cow with an udder full of milk that she never gets to use. From an economic standpoint, its an even bigger waste to spend money on milk replacer, instead of using what the cow makes naturally. So lo and behold, these to tragedies have aligned perfectly. We go and get the little baby twin, take the mother’s dead baby away from her, and then wipe down the new baby with the blood and oils that cover the dead one (to make the twin baby smell like a newly-born), and turn him loose into the pen with mama.
It wasn’t ten minutes.
The mama starting cooing at and smelling the new baby, and pretty soon, her new baby was nursing and wiggling his little tail.
What people fail to realize, if ever they are downgrading the beef industry, is that the health, well-being, and happiness of the animal are essential to running a profitable beef farm. Unfortunately, every year there are tragedies like these that arise, as to be expected, and most every year we graft (adopt out) maybe two or three calves. Maybe less if we’re lucky. Of course the economic side of it can be talked about at great length, but nothing quite warms the heart than the sight of a mother and baby both getting all they wanted from the start: each other.